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About Honors


The mission of Honors Program is to foster a life-long community of scholars by bringing together academically talented and highly motivated students to engage and innovate with outstanding scholar/teachers.  Our program encourages critical and creative thinking, ethical and moral reasoning, personal and social responsibility, intellectual boldness and academic excellence. The mission is guided by the American University Statement of Common Purpose, which espouses a commitment to: interdisciplinary inquiry, international understanding, interactive teaching, research and creative endeavors and the practical application of knowledge.


The Honors Program has developed over many years into what it is today.  Prior to the creation of the Honors Program, exceptional students at American University pursued Honors work within their majors. In addition, beginning in 1959, talented students in the College of Arts and Sciences had the opportunity to participate in an Honors Program that combined general Honors colloquia with independent study in a specialized field. As AU continued to grow, students, faculty and administrators recognized the need for a different type of program, one that had a special identity but was compatible with the needs of a wide variety of intellectual disciplines and with the character of the university as a whole.

The University Senate approved legislation for a campus-wide Honors Program in the fall of 1977. For the first time, talented students from every department and college in the University had the opportunity to interact and share ideas. The program's first students took such Honors seminars such as "Personality and Politics," "The Astronomical Perspective," and "Philosophy, Science, and Religion."

The Honors Program continued to grow and expand, each semester offering creative and challenging courses taught by outstanding faculty. An Honors community sprang into existence with the establishment of Honors floors in the residence halls and the development of social, cultural and educational programming for Honors students. The program attracted motivated and dedicated students, providing a visible manifestation of the university's commitment to excellence.

In response to the program's growth as well as to changes in the university's General Education Program, the Honors Program implemented a thorough restructuring that went into effect in the fall of 1989. In addition to Honors Colloquia, the program now entails special Honors sections of courses taken at every level of a student's academic career, from General Education courses through courses taken in all of the various majors the University has to offer and the completion of a senior Capstone project.

In 2009, the Honors Program celebrated 50 years of Honors at American University. The program currently serves over 450 students.

In Fall 2014, the university welcomed the inaugural class of the new AU Honors Program. Click here to learn more about this program.