What is Explore DC?

Group of students at service site Explore DC 2018

Explore DC (EDC) is a two-day program for incoming first-year and transfer students at American University.  It's part of AU's Welcome Week programming, sponsored by the Center for Community Engagement & Service. Explore DC gives new students a chance to acclimate to their new city through logistical issues like transportation and food, to learn a bit about the city works by exploring the burning issues faced by community members, and to be exposed to some of the cultural and historical resources that exist.

Students will have a common experience of one day of service and one day of active learning through visiting various sites in the city. Students can choose from six issue areas, depending on their interests, for the day of service.

For nearly 800 Class of 2022 students and 100 upper class students, it was an impactful way to start off their year.

Coverage from AU News described the program brilliantly, sharing;

"This year’s Explore DC program launched on the evening of August 21 with an opening ceremony featuring Sister Mary Brown, founder of youth arts program Life Pieces to Masterpieces, and Kondwani Fidel, a performer and author from Baltimore. The program continued through two days of service and site visits and included about 750 participants—mostly incoming freshman, as well as transfer students, and, for the first time, 210 students in the International Accelerator program.


"Service is such an important theme throughout our entire university,"said President Sylvia M. Burwell, who participated at an Explore DC site for the second year. “The people who come here know AU is a place for changemakers. It’s also an important part of what I believe is our responsibility as a university to contribute to the community around us.”

With a focus on six crucial issues—youth and education, housing and homelessness, community health, environmental sustainability, identity and civil rights, and immigration and refugees—around 100 student leaders connected students with over 80 organizations in DC and surrounding suburbs."

-By Shea Connelly|August 29, 2018

For more information please visit News at AU.

2018 Socal Justice Issue Areas

Nearly 20% (110,000) of Washington DC residents struggle with finding affordable housing. Contributing factors include gentrification, inflated housing costs, poverty, and disparities in income. AU Students will explore the complex aspects of this issue and how communities are responding while engaging with multiple District neighborhoods. Food is a fundamental staple in life. However, In DC access to healthy food is beyond the reach of some residents as a result of food deserts, areas with little or no access to grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable foods. AU students will learn about food justice by working with nonprofits, urban farming, and understanding how to increase access to healthy food.

Public health aims to protect the health of the population, prevent disease, and promote healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Community health issues can range from disease and illness like HIV/AIDS and asthma, to non-traditional health concerns like domestic violence. AU students will learn about health disparities and work with organizations making preventative and routine healthcare more accessible, regardless of ethnicity, race, or socioeconomic status.

DC has one of the highest achievement gaps regarding K-12 education, depending on where students reside in the city. Local organizations work to lessen inequalities and prepare students to have a successful future.AU students will learn about the city’s education system, work with local advocacy groups, and engage with programs working to close the gap.

Washington, DC has long been a destination for marginalized peoples looking to build a better life for their families. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, there are more people displaced by conflict and persecution now than at any other point in history. Students will learn why this region has been a destination for newcomers and meet with local organizations working on current resettlement initiatives. Additionally, students will explore local neighborhoods that have been transformed and enriched by contributions of immigrant communities in the DC.

Washington, DC has made strides to lessen human impact on the environment through sustainable policies and community organizations. However, DC lags in addressing poor air quality and water pollution which disproportionately affect low-income communities in the District. AU Students will support environmental justice programs seeking to empower residents and begin to understand their own environmental footprints.

Washington D.C. is the home of iconic events such as the March on Washington, Million Man March, Capital Pride, and the Women’s Suffrage March. This city serves as a hub for issues around identity and civil rights and activists have long come to DC to gain support for their causes. AU Students will have the chance to engage with diverse topics in community organizing, and learn how to take issues of marginalized peoples to the national stage.

All images courtesy of the incredible EDC Press Corps team!!

Posted by AU Explore DC on Wednesday, September 14, 2016

This a two-day, two-evening program for incoming students is co-sponsored by the Center for Community Engagement &...

Posted by AU Explore DC on Tuesday, June 6, 2017




Find out more about Press Corp. In exploring all social justice issue areas from a unique perspective: behind the camera. This special Explore DC program uses your artistic skills to capture and creatively present the EDC experience. Select students will engage in media learning by using photography, videography, and editing. In the course of two days the group will travel around the city to document other groups in their service and experiential learning, all centering on the discussion of the media in relation to social justice work. Experience with photography, videography, or editing is preferred and encouraged but not required. Please directly contact Explore DC Coordinators at exploredc@american.eduor at 202.885.1553 with any questions!