Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

University Honors Program | Why Honors?

The University Honors Program encourages intellectual distinction and fosters academic excellence through selected courses and a senior Capstone project, allowing students the opportunity to work closely with renowned faculty.  Honors students can major in any discipline offered at the university and can enroll in their choice of numerous Honors courses every semester, including interdisciplinary Honors Colloquia courses. As members of the Honors community, students can opt to live on an Honors floor in the residence halls, participate in various Honors events and other activities on campus, in the nation’s capital, and abroad.

Benefits of participation in the University Honors Program include:

  • Smaller classes taught by renowned faculty from a variety of disciplines

  • Multidisciplinary Honors colloquia that involve topics, ideas and approaches not typical within traditional university departments, such as a recent course on Darwinism, which examined the work of Darwin from the perspective of biology, psychology, anthropology and literature
  • Participation in an Honors living-learning community by living on an Honors floor

  • One-on-one Honors academic counseling tailored to the individual student's needs and goals

  • Opportunity to work closely with faculty members on research or creative projects

  • Access to Honors alumni world-wide

  • Leadership opportunities with Honors 101 or the Student Honors Board

  • Priority class registration

  • Discount tickets, free lunch with professors, small-group discussions with political leaders and academic innovators

  • Travel with fellow Honors students, faculty, and staff to a beautiful and historic part of the world, which has in the past included, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat and the Great Pyramids

  • Added prestige to your already outstanding education at American University, which provides a competitive advantage when applying for Washington, D.C., internships or national scholarships like the Truman, Rhodes, or Goldwater


Kyrie Bannar, Class of 2010
Home: New Tripoli, Pennsylvannia
Majors: CLEG and sociology
Activities: Lead peer advisor, AU Career Center; director, Domestic Violence Awareness, AU Women's Initiative; on-call advocate for Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment
Internships: National Women's Law Center
Honors and Awards: Harry S. Truman Scholarship

"I have really appreciated the attention that the Honors Program professors give to their students. Once you enter the classroom, there is a focus and there are expectations that you don't always find in other classes. In the Honors classes, professors come to the class already expecting strong students, and their goal is to really engage students with interesting material and build on what we already know. The colloquia offer specialized material, with professors that have a unique perspective on that material. My first Honors colloquium, 'Women and the Law,' helped direct me toward a career in law. This semester I will be applying to some incredible law schools because of this early exposure to the study of law in my sophomore year.

Working with the remarkable and approachable faculty, developing my own research projects, and venturing beyond the campus to teach high school students all happened because I joined the Honors Program. These experiences have really enriched my overall education and enabled me to apply what I learned in the classroom to my research and projects."

Han Chen, Class of 2010
Home: Tampa, Florida
Majors: International studies and minor in sociology
Activities: Vagina Monologues, International Vibe Fashion Show, former resident assistant
Internships: Embassy of France, Center for American Progress
Study Abroad: American University in Cairo
Honors and Awards: Insitute for International Public Policy Fellowship

"I've learned that it's important to go one step further with everything I do. Partly, this is because through my classes I meet other Honors students who are very ambitious. Taking Honors means pushing myself just a bit more academically. It encourages me to do the same with the rest of my time at AU, which means being more involved in clubs and activities, attending more campus events and gaining more leadership experience. I also feel encouraged to do more off campus.

The Honors experience makes General Education classes more interesting, and it is easier to interact with a professor in a smaller class. The higher-level seminars are very small, so you get to interact with the professor and with other students in every class."

Rachel Cannon, Class of 2010
Home: Chandler, Arizona
Majors: International studies, minor in literature
Activities: 2008 Honors 101 co-chair, AU Orchestra, coordinator of music for the United Methodist Student Organization, founding member of the Creative Writing Club
Internships: Embassy of France, Center for American Progress
Study Abroad: Mt. Allison University in Canada
Honors and Awards: Killam Fellowship

"The Honors Program really encourages students to push themselves - with the classes, the Capstone and the GPA requirements - but at the same time it serves as an academic resource, so it doesn't become overwhelming. With Honors 101 and beyond, the Honors Program allows students to take advantage of this incredible city we're in. Why not take advantage of it? The classes are great, the opportunities are endless, and the free cake and priority registration definitely don't hurt.

Beyond the obvious academic benefits, I've also been able to take advantage of leadership opportunities within the community. I enjoyed Honors 101 so much as a freshman that I went on to become a mentor and, the year after that, one of the student coordinators for the program. Plus, the Honors counselors and coordinators are wonderful people - and they are a great resource for students. I love the colloquia - I took Professor Moomau's writing course my freshman year, and I've had at least one a semester since them. The colloquia are some of the most amazing classes I've ever taken and have really worked to stretch the way that I think."

Karun Tilak, Class of 2011
Home: Lawton, Oklahoma
Majors: International studies
Activities: Former SIS Undergraduate Council vice president and comptroller, AU Ambassador, member of Phi Alpha Delta and Tau Kappa Epsilon
Internships: American Foreign Policy Council; FIVS-Abridge, LLC
Study Abroad: Amman, Jordan, with the Critical Language Scholar Program; London School of Economics
Honors and Awards: Critical Language Scholarship

"When I joined the Honors Program, I feared that it would limit my academic and social experience at college to a cookie-cutter clique of 'fellow-nerds.' Instead, I found a community of students of diverse backgrounds and interests. This, as much as the wonderful academic opportunities and amazing faculty, is why I would recommend the Honors Program. Whether in Honors classes or on Honors floors in the dorms, it is the students who make up the Honors Program who have truly enriched my college experience thus far.

My most rewarding experience through the Honors Program was an Honors Colloquium I took with Prof. Michael Mass entitled 'Legal Issues in Globalization.' I realized as soon as I saw the leather-bound college-level textbook that it would be a challenging semester. Yet, through informed classroom debate initiated both by the students and Prof. Mass and close study of numerous cases, the intricacies of such subjects as international commercial contracts assumed a context and importance I would never previously have thought about. The experience definitely helped me solidify my career interest in international law. I was also able to present the final paper I wrote for the class at the annual SIS Undergraduate Research Symposium."

Drew Veysey, Class of 2010
Home: Ames, Iowa
Major: Environmental Studies and Political Science
Activities: Eco-Sense, DC Youth Environmental Alliance, Volunteer for Iowater Water Quality Monitoring
Internships: Global Warning, Plans to intern on Capitol Hill
Honors and Awards: Morris K. Udall Foundation Scholarship

"Honors professors really care about their students and maintain good relationships with them long after the semester is completed. Such connections are useful and make the Honors Program a vibrant community within AU.

My most unique experience as an Honors student had to be when chemistry professor and Environmental Protection Agency union vice president Dr. Bill Hirzy brought a small group of students to meet EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. As an environmental studies major, I found that meeting the EPA's administrator was a real treat!

Hands down, the best takeaways from the Honors Program are the friendships I have built with Honors students while living on the Honors dormitory floors. The Honors Program has taught me to take chances, along with the art of lively intellectual debate among knowledgeable peers."