Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

The Olson Scholars Program

About the Program

Olson Scholars standing with Dr. Laura Field and Dr. Aaron Boesenecker in SIS Atrium

Diana Tetterton, American University

As a living memorial to William Olson, former Dean of the School of International Service whose dedication to the mentoring of students was renowned and greatly appreciated by numerous students over the years, the Olson Scholars Program recognizes high-achieving first-year students as they enter their sophomore year at SIS. The program provides a structured, challenging, and supportive curricular environment within which high-performing undergraduate students have the opportunity to pursue advanced research work in international studies under the close supervision of a member of the SIS faculty.

Chosen for their high academic achievement, passion for international issues, and quality of their proposed research, Olson Scholars will enroll in a dedicated section of the core SIS research methodology sequence over the course of their sophomore year (SISU-206 Introduction to International Studies Research in the Fall, and SISU-306 Advanced International Studies Research in the Spring).

The Olson Scholars section of 206 is taught by Dr. Aaron P. Boesenecker, who is also the SIS Undergraduate Research Coordinator. In this course Olson Scholars are introduced to important epistemological questions about the nature of social science research and to foundational research skills and competencies. Students are then guided through the process of developing different research designs for their projects, each one employing a different methodological approach. The Olson Scholars section of 306 is taught by Dr. Laura K. Field. As students proceed through 306, they are expected to work more and more independently with their faculty mentor, while class time is devoted to exploring broad theoretical questions about social science and ethics.

The opportunity to work closely with a faculty mentor is perhaps the most exciting part of the Olson Scholars Program. Each student is matched with an SIS faculty mentor whose research and professional interests closely correspond to the student’s own passions and vocational goals; the faculty mentor guides the student through the research project that the student will work on over the course of the year.

Olson Scholars will be invited to participate in a number of supplemental activities over the course of the year that are designed to take advantage of resources in Washington DC to broaden and deepen the students’ engagement with and grasp of the most pressing challenges in world politics today.

How to Apply

Applications for the Olson Scholars Program are available to first-year SIS undergraduate students in the Spring of their first year. Selection criteria include a student’s overall and in-major GPA, a record of engagement with and demonstrated passion for international issues, and the quality of the proposed research project on which the applicant proposes to work. Approximately 15 Olson Scholars will be named annually.

Apply Now.