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AU High School Summer Scholars

American University (AU) is now offering high school students the opportunity to pursue their interests in greater depth by enrolling in 1-credit online courses covering a range of topics, from global public health and law to biotechnology and public speaking. By enrolling in an AU credit-bearing course, you will enjoy a stimulating, innovative, and personalized college-level learning experience especially tailored to high school students. Students will access their course via AU's Blackboard platform at hours that suit their own schedules and will have 30 days to complete all assignments.

Dates: Course start dates range from mid-June to mid-July and last 30 days. For specific dates, click on course links. Students may enroll in up to 3 courses. Because the nature of instruction is asynchronous and there are no live sessions, students may select courses with overlapping dates.

Type of Instruction: Each course is taught by AU faculty and is delivered asynchronously via AU’s Blackboard platform. Students can access the instructional materials, which include recorded lectures and faculty-led discussions, at times that suit their own schedule. AU faculty remain involved and accessible to students for 30 days via Blackboard or office hours conducted via Zoom or Skype. 

Eligibility: Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Tuition: $850 per course, a significant discount from AU’s standard tuition rate.

Application Deadline: Rolling admissions until all spots are filled.

Course Topics and Descriptions

This introductory course, designed for students who are interested in learning the fundamentals of using science to solve crime, provides a basic overview of the crime scene investigation process, and the issues involved in the presentation of forensic evidence in court. Students learn about the identification, documentation, and collection of physical evidence, including fingerprints, shoe impressions, hair and fibers, firearms evidence, and questioned documents. The class discusses the impact of television and other media on the field of forensic science.

Fundamentals of Law will introduce you to the American legal system, law, the role of the lawyer, and legal writing. We will learn about the structure and function of the legal system, and look at the process of resolving grievances through the courts. Additionally, we will review the key substantive areas in criminal and civil law, highlighting controversial issues in each. Finally, we will learn about the different roles that lawyers and judges can play, as well as their unique ethical obligations. Throughout the course, you will learn how to use legal terminology, conduct legal writing, and examine the many interesting facets of the American legal system.

This course approaches health care as much more than an individual- or local-level activity. Rather, it is embedded in a complex global system of health threats and responses. This arena, global public health, brings together scientific, economic, and political issues, and its outcomes affect billions of lives. We will discuss the historical development of the field, the state of public health around the world (including but not limited to the COVID-19 pandemic), and the prospects for addressing current and future health threats. Politics and advocacy movements surrounding public health will be a particular focus, as well as explorations of how COVID-19 is situated within broader debates in the field. Finally, this course is designed to be a college experience and will emphasize the critical analysis and other skills that are required for university-level work.

This course is designed to introduce students to the role that intelligence plays in contemporary national security. The class will begin with a discussion of what security actually means, followed by an overview of the concept of national security and the different ways we protect the United States. The course will explore the nature of contemporary threats by focusing on what constitutes a threat in the first place and by discussing whether today's threats are different and more challenging than those of the past. Finally, the class will investigate the tough choices policy-makers are forced to make on a daily basis. Threats, responses, and intelligence are rarely crystal-clear, necessitating a set of very high-stakes decisions by national leaders. The follow-up assignments will allow students to explore these issues in greater depth in written format. Students will finish the course with a deeper appreciation for the nuances of security studies, threat assessment, and intelligence practice.

The course will seek answers to some of the most pressing questions facing today's world. For example, what are the main challenges international businesses face when navigating the increasing patterns of global interdependence and trade? How are goods, people and ideas moving around the world in new ways? If globalization goes beyond our borders, it underscores the fact that problems such as financial crises, conflicts, and environmental concerns are now experienced on a global scale, affecting countries, businesses and communities. The recent pandemic illustrates how important it is to understand the link between public health and economic activity. This class will be interdisciplinary in nature in order to reflect the challenges international businesses and entrepreneurs face in today's globalized world. This class will therefore examine the intersection of globalization, economic development, political science, the environment and gender issues. Through the use of videos, newspaper articles and other media tools, we will uncover what it means for businesses and individuals to be globally oriented in today's world.  

Diplomacy has been a significant form of interaction between sovereign entities since antiquity. In our time of tremendous social, political, and economic change, diplomacy persists as a prominent feature of international relations. It has been alternatively reviled as facilitating war and misperception, too antiquated to mitigate global issues, yet also praised as the only useful process for peace and effective communication. In this course, we will explore how scholars and practitioners have viewed diplomacy, offering arguments about its function, practice, limits, and response to change.

The course examines why and how individuals organize to influence government in the development of public policy. Students are introduced to interest group politics, effective advocacy, the tools of political communication, and policy development and analysis. The course will examine critical domestic policy areas, such as energy, environment, education, health, justice, and economic stability.

Public Speaking is a critical component of successful leaders. In today's world, the ability to present one's thoughts clearly is key to success. Whether you choose to join the Peace Corps or work in a Fortune 500 company, understanding the value of storytelling and public speaking will differentiate you from your colleagues and peers. For many, public speaking is daunting; for a few, it comes naturally. But like most things, with a few tricks of the trade and a lot of practice, we can all become confident and effective public speakers. The focus of this course will be on preparation, examination, organization, and delivery aspects of public speaking. The skills you build will also be applicable to other areas of your life. The readings, course activities, and course projects are created to strengthen your skills. Active listening will be examined as a fundamental prerequisite for effective and efficient public communication. We will make ongoing efforts to learn from our experiences through deliberate critiques; all these activities will improve our communication skills.

This course begins by introducing students to the concept of sustainable development. Development professionals, engineers and city planners interested in sustainability must take a series of factors into consideration when designing products, projects and cities that will have lasting impacts on the planet, human populations and local, national and international economies. As problem solvers, these actors can play a fundamental role in resolving development challenges – or in making them worse. In this class, we will examine what drives the need for environmentally and socially sustainable design, explore leading theories and concepts from the field, and work together to come up with potential solutions to real-world scenarios. Some questions we will discuss are: What does it mean to design products that are good for people and for the planet? How do we build products without negative social and environmental impacts? How can development staff and engineers apply their skills to address problems in developing countries? This course explores these questions through a combination of sustainable design exercises, film excerpts, peer-based activities and instructor lectures.

Recent advances in the study of genome function reveal the fluidity and flexibility of the information encoded in our DNA. Gene structure, gene positioning within chromosomes, non-coding DNA sequences and the chemical structure of the nucleotides are all factors in how genetics impact our daily lives and development. Biotechnology is the collection of tools scientists use to manipulate and modify genomes for use in pharmaceuticals, medicine, agriculture and the criminal justice system. Techniques including polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA sequencing, and molecular cloning allows us to isolate and characterize portions of DNA, so we may ultimately create new DNA sequences, new proteins and even entirely synthetic organisms. Students in this course will obtain and analyze a variable gene (CDK) from their classmates using PCR and DNA sequencing. A course database of CDK gene sequences will be organized and analyzed with tools and methods designed by each student based on their own hypotheses and experimental design. This project will provide first-hand experience in the biotechnology fields of genomics and proteomics.

Organizations, governments, businesses, scientific research and even entertainment is increasingly data driven. The Data Science credit course provides an opportunity to better understand and utilize the tools used the analyze complex and large data points that are now collected in our digital world. Students will not only become proficient/fluent in the R programming language, but they will use this skill and others to answer an original research questions. Students will propose questions, hypotheses, and predictions that can be measured and analyzed with big data. Students will learn how to organize data, perform calculations, and create visual representations.

Students interested in medicine, the behavioral sciences, or life sciences will learn how the structure and function of the nervous system relates to human memory, learning, emotions, and sensations; and how psychologists understand normal and abnormal behaviors in terms of these processes. Over the last twenty years, knowledge of the brain has been greatly enhanced by the development of new neuroscience tools and techniques to examine neuroanatomy, neuropharmacology, and neurophysiology. Students will learn how to interpret results of brain imaging and neuropsychological tests, which are used to probe the functioning of the human brain in both normal and abnormal states. Students will also learn about the value of animal models to understanding brain structure and function. They will perform simulations of brain and spinal cord of sheep dissections; and study the structure of nerve cells (neurons) and nerve pathways that connect our extremities to the central nervous system via the peripheral nervous system. The neurons of these systems are able to conduct signals based both on electrical current and chemically-mediated neurotransmitter-receptor mechanisms. Students will read primary literature and design experiments to test their own hypotheses on how changes in neurotransmitter levels affect behavior and nervous system development. Students will be able to apply what they learn to what is known about psychological conditions such as addiction, schizophrenia, and depression.

Program Benefits

  • Earn college credit
  • Enjoy personal instruction from your college professor
  • Gain in-depth insight in a field of interest
  • Bolster your college applications
  • Have an official AU transcript sent to any college to which you are applying