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Welcome to AU’s General Education Program


General Education
Hughes Hall, Room 101

Brad G. Knight
Manager, General Education Program and Assessment

General Education
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016

The General Education Program, or GenEd, is American University’s liberal arts requirement. (What some institutions call a core or distribution requirement.) Schools with a core liberal arts program believe that there is a certain body of knowledge that all educated adults should possess. Those with distribution requirements think students should learn about subjects outside their main course of study. We agree with both of those philosophies.

Well, sort of.

At AU we do things a bit differently. We reject the idea that there is any single body of knowledge that constitutes “what all educated people should know.” What we care about are learning outcomes—that is, how your education helps you become who you are. We believe that our graduates should be equipped with certain intellectual skills and resources if they are to understand the complex dynamics of an increasingly connected global environment.

The Rules

  • Take two courses in each of the five Foundational Areas
  • At least one course in Area Five must include a lab science component
  • No more than two courses can have the same course prefix (BIO, LIT, etc.). The only exception is GNED, the interdisciplinary prefix used for Wildcards and Sophomore Seminars.

Got more questions? Check out the FAQ.

GenEd Learning Outcomes

  1. Aesthetic sensibilities
    Critical reflections on the nature and history of beauty and art
  2. Communication skills
    Interchanging ideas and information through writing, speech, and visual and digital media
  3. Critical Inquiry
    Systematic questioning and analysis of problems, issues, and claims
  4. Diverse perspectives and experiences
    Acquiring knowledge and analytical skills to understand a variety of perspectives and experiences, including those that have emerged from the scholarship on age, disability, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation, and social class
  5. Innovative thinking
    Venturing beyond established patterns of thought in imaginative and creative ways
  6. Ethical reasoning
    Assessing and weighing of moral and political beliefs and practices, and their applications to ethical dilemmas
  7. Information literacy
    Locating, evaluating, citing, and effectively using information
  8. Quantitative literacy and symbolic reasoning
    Applying mathematical, statistical, and symbolic reasoning to complex problems and decision making


joker card

Check out the Wildcard offerings!


Sophomore Seminars

These interdisciplinary courses are specially designed to provide second-year students with opportunities to integrate approaches and methods from across the curriculum.


Program Goals

Learn more about the learning outcomes of the five Foundational Areas.



The General Education Program is pleased to announce the availability of awards for the General Education Faculty Assistance Program (GEFAP) for Spring 2017. Applications will be accepted through November 28, 2016.



Our brochure provides a print overview of the General Education program.

View the PDF


All curriculum and course creation forms (including the Wildcard and Sophomore Seminar forms) are now on the Registrar's website.