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AU Honors Curriculum

Our curriculum is designed to be flexible so that students are able to make the most of their time at American University. Honors students can complete the Honors curriculum and still major or minor in any available subject, can double major, study abroad, participate in NCAA athletics, and even pursue early graduation or one of the five-year combined BA/MA programs.

Most importantly, our scaffolded approach to supporting student intellectual exploration allows students to pursue their scholarly passions while gaining crucial academic inquiry. Students in the AU Honors program are able to double major, can study abroad, and can complete the program in three years if they intend to graduate early.  

First Year


Begin in wonder...

Approach and explore a topic with an awareness of the strengths and limitations of diverse intellectual perspectives.


Fall Semester

CORE-106, Honors section of Complex Problems Seminar (3 credits) 

HNRS-150, AU Honors Experiential Learning (1 credit)

WRTG-100, Honors Section of College Writing --OR-- WRTG-106, College Writing, Intensive (3 credits)


Spring Semester

HNRS-151, AU Honors Inquiry Experience (1 credit)

Faculty-led projects intended to help students engage in the process of knowledge-creation and knowledge presentation.


Second Year


Journey in curiosity...

Develop and execute a rigorous scholarly plan for generating knowledge, in dialogue with a variety of traditions of inquiry.

Fall Semester

HNRS-395, Theories of Inquiry 
A broad conceptual exploration of different ways of producing and presenting knowledge across fields and disciplines; emphasis is on developing an appreciation of the strengths and limitations of different approaches, and on the formation of research questions in different traditions (3 credits). 

Spring Semester

HNRS-398, Honors Challenge Course
Building on skills learned in ToI, students form groups, choose an AU faculty mentor, and tackle a research question of their own design. Students share their research with a larger audience during the Challenge Course Showcase (3 credits). 

Learn More About HNRS-398

Third and Fourth Year


Dare to Know...

Students participate in increasingly independent inquiry experiences and contribute to knowledge, creative expression, and meaningful change. 

Honors Colloquium

Honors students take 2 Honors Colloquium courses. 3 credits must be either HNRS-400 Advanced Honors Colloquium OR another upper-division Honors offering.
3 credits can be another of the above OR an Honors supplement affixed to an upper-division course on campus or abroad. These courses are most often taken junior and/or senior year (6 credits). 


Learn More About Honors Colloquium

Honors Capstone

Create a capstone in your major or through Honors. Examples: traditional scholarly thesis, creative work, case study, business plan, media project, etc. 

Learn More About HNRS-498

Fall 2023 CORE-106

An Honors section of the Complex Problems Seminar, taken the fall semester of the first year (3 credits). Must be simultaneously registered with the corresponding section of HNRS-150, AU Honors Experiential Learning course(1 credit).

Prof. Lindsay Green-Simms

The word decolonization comes from a period in the 20th century when former colonies, many in Africa or the Caribbean, sought to decolonize by gaining their independence from European powers like France and Britain and becoming sovereign nations. But by the early 21st century, the term took on a broader meaning. It now refers to the process of rejecting the economic, social, and cultural effects of colonization that continue to negatively impact Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) throughout the world in multiple ways. Lately, we have seen calls to decolonize nearly everything, from museums, to syllabi, to sexuality, to international aid, to nutrition and diet culture and self-care. This course asks the following questions: How can the concept of decolonization offer us models to understand the ways in which colonialism is still sustained today? And can calls to decolonize help us dismantle an internalized set of ideas that were initiated with projects of imperial quests for power and profit, or has decolonization become just another co-opted buzzword? To answer these questions we will turn to films, novels, essays, and social media and think about how race, gender, sexuality, colonialism, history, and culture all intersect.

Prof. Cathy Schaeff

In this course we will investigate the idea of sexual desire and why it occurs. We will begin with the idea that desire is an evolutionary strategy that promotes successful reproduction and see how that lines up with what we learn about the patterns of modern human sexuality. We will explore ideas such as whether there are two sexes, whether patterns of attraction change through one's life, and whether there is a predictable relationship between desire and sexual activity. Assignments will include using qualitative and quantitative methods to distil information from interviews, dating site profiles and lectures by "experts" as we discover what we know about sexual desire and how we came to know it.  

Prof. Nancy Snider

From early amorphous blobs of computer generated sounds, to the pulsating beats of contemporary hip hop, we are experiencing electronic music in both conscious and unconscious ways. This course will explore the impact that electronics have had on music since its beginnings in the late 19th century. Special attention, using a variety of genres, will be given to the advent of sound in film as well as to new language/vocabularies in music, new sounds as the result of newly designed instruments and synthesis techniques, digital vs analogue applications and, the computer. This course will offer participants the unique opportunity to observe, analyze, experiment, and even create music with electronics. Problems concerning the enduring question of invention as progress (or not) and wrestling with finding value in the unfamiliar will be at the heart of this course. Determining how these new technologies have shaped listening, musical creativity, responses, expectations and culture, will be examined through multiple lenses and disciplines where the intersection of art, science, technology and society meet at a sometimes surprising but undeniable crossroads.

Prof. David Pike

This course studies two complex problems, migration and contemporary cities, in the context of Washington, DC and the greater DC area, often referred to as the DMV (District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia). The course uses the DMV area as a laboratory to focus on the intersectionality of these complex problems, to grasp the simultaneously local and transnational composition of each problem, to learn different humanities and social sciences approaches to these problems, and to formulate research projects within a local community. It begins with an introduction to Washington DC; questions about race, gentrification, and community in the DMV; key issues in migration studies and in the study of cities; and basic field and library research skills. The course then features units devoted to drivers of migration and migrant experiences in the DC area. During the final third of the course, the course focuses on student projects and videos building on their research.

Prof. Mohamed Nimer

Religion can mean different things to different people. While modern secular thought has permeated religious and communal life, traditional understandings of religion are still vibrant while fundamentalist and religion-based nationalisms have surged despite globalization. Wars of culture and power based the different understandings of the interplay between religion, society and state rage in America and throughout the world. What this course aims to explore most intently is how the diverse perceptions of religion have impacted problems of identity, spirituality, democracy, and peace. This course will unpack this set of complex dynamics by drawing from cultural studies, history and current politics. Toward this end the course will examine how religious and secular notions have impacted the integration of new religious communities and state formation or dissolution. What will be unique about this course is the idea that religion can be a source of harmony and peacemaking as it has been a source of division and conflict.

Fall 2023 HNRS-395

Theories of Inquiry helps students grapple with the difficulties of identifying a strong question to inaugurate a process of inquiry, how to refine the question in dialogue with different research traditions, and then how to identify and locate the right material and methods for answering the question. 


The Honors Colloqiua allow both students and professors to engage with interesting topics they may not get to explore in their other courses. 

Prof. Erran Carmel

Universities teach about the past and the present, but what about the future? In fact, there are structured approaches to analyzing the future. In this course, students develop an anticipatory future consciousness, learn and apply futures methods in a serious futures study, and engage in the intellectual space of futures. Creativity is a key component of futures methods. Students develop fact-based future scenarios and discuss science fiction. Students complete a 'Future of X' project and choose, solo or in a small team, a topic and then apply future and foresight methods to create an in-depth futures report. 

Prof. Scott Bass

There is an extensive volume of literature on the topic of leadership; in one year alone, there were over 2,000 books written on the topic. The study of leadership involves scholars from the disciplines of political science, sociology, psychology, communications, public administration, public policy, business, and history. This course focuses on a less examined aspect of leadership that is embedded in social and political movements. This includes the forms of leadership exhibited in protests, uprisings, civil disobedience, hunger strikes, self-mutilation, symbolic acts, occupations, conflicts, disruptions, marches, property damage, theft, riots, and different forms of activism designed for social change. Leadership takes place within all forms of human interaction, organizations, and collectives. The course draws upon examples of social or political confrontation and change.