American University

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox University2 American University is a fully accredited and internationally renowned private coeducational university located at Ward Circle, straddling the Spring Valley and American University Park areas of Northwest Washington, DC. It currently has roughly 5,000 undergraduate students, and approximately the same number of graduate students.

It is served by the Tenleytown-AU station on the Washington Metro, which is located roughly a mile from the main campus in the neighborhood of Tenleytown.

AU is in the first tier of US News & World Report's college and university rankings guide (

A leader in global education, AU enrolls a diverse student body from throughout the U.S. and more than 160 countries.

AU is a member of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, allowing students to enroll in courses offered by other member institutions and students at other member institutions to enroll in courses at AU.



American University traces its history to a letter written by George Washington, in which he expressed a desire for a "national university" to be located in the nation's capital. The university was established in the District of Columbia by an Act of Congress on February 24, 1893 primarily due to the efforts of Methodist Bishop John Fletcher Hurst. Bishop Hurst and his colleagues were concerned with building an institution that would meld the strengths of the best German universities with the strengths of the existing university system in America. As their plans developed during the early years, they began to conceive of American University as an institution that would be:

  • A privately supported university financed principally by the membership of the churches, particularly the Methodist Episcopal Church, which had been the founders of many of the colleges and universities in the early years of American history.
  • An internationally minded institution where scholars from across the nation and from throughout the world would gather to dedicate their combined efforts to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge.
  • A center of higher education and research activities that, while independent of the government, would draw freely on the intellectual and scientific resources of the Nation's Capital to supplement and to extend its own capabilities.
  • An institution that would contribute to the general cultural life and development of the Capital in much the same manner that state supported universities in other world capitals contributed to their communities.

After more than two decades devoted principally to securing financial support, the University was officially dedicated on May 15, 1914. The first instruction began on October 6 of that year, when twenty-eight students were enrolled (nineteen of them graduate students, nine of them special students not candidates for a degree). The First Annual Commencement, at which no degrees were awarded, was held on June 2, 1915. The Second Annual Commencement was held on June 2, 1916, and at that time, the first degrees (one master's degree and two doctor's degrees) were awarded. It was not long after these early commencement ceremonies that classes would be interrupted by war. During both World War I, the university allowed the U.S. military to use some of its grounds for testing. In 1917, the US military divided American University into two segments, Camp American University and Camp Leach. Camp American University became the birthplace of the United States' chemical weapons program, and chemical weapons were tested on the grounds; this required a major cleanup effort in the 1990s. Camp Leach was the home to advanced research, develop and testing of modern camouflage techniques.

During the next ten years, instruction was offered at the graduate level only, in accordance with the original plan of the founders. In the Fall of 1925, the College of Liberal Arts (subsequently named the College of Arts and Sciences) was established. Since that date, the University has offered both undergraduate and graduate degrees and programs.

During WWII, the campus again offered its services to the US Government, and became home to the US Navy Bomb Disposal School and a WAVE barracks. For AU's role in these wartime efforts, the Victory Ship SS American Victory was named in honor of the university.

The present structure of the university began to emerge in 1949. The Washington College of Law became part of the University in that year, having begun in 1896 as the first coeducational institution for the professional study of law in the District of Columbia. Shortly thereafter, three departments were reorganized as schools: the School of Business Administration in 1955 (subsequently named the Robert P. and Arlene R. Kogod College of Business Administration and in 1999 renamed the Kogod School of Business); the School of Government and Public Administration in 1957; and the School of International Service in 1958.

In the early 1960s, the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency operated a think tank under the guise of Operation Camelot at American University. The government abandoned the think tank after the operation came to public attention. AU's political intertwinement was furthered by President John F. Kennedy's Spring 1963 commencement address ( In the speech, Kennedy called on the Soviet Union to work with the United States to achieve a nuclear test ban treaty and help reduce the considerable international tensions and the specter of nuclear war during that juncture of the Cold War.

From 1965 to 1977, the College of Continuing Education existed as a degree-granting college with responsibility for on- and off-campus adult education programs. The Lucy Webb Hayes School of Nursing provided undergraduate study in Nursing from 1965 until 1988. In 1972, the School of Government and Public Administration, the School of International Service, the Center for Technology and Administration, and the Center for the Administration of Justice (subsequently named the School of Justice) were incorporated into the College of Public and International Affairs. In 1988, the College of Public and International Affairs was reorganized to create two free-standing schools: the School of International Service and the School of Public Affairs, incorporating the School of Government and Public Administration and the School of Justice. The School of Communication became independent from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1993.

In 1997 AU formally became affiliated with the American University of Sharjah. AU's affiliation with the univeristy in Sharjah will last until at least August 2009.

AU and The United Methodist Church

The development of AU has been supported by many sources, but particularly important has been The United Methodist Church. As the result of an amendment to its Charter by the Congress of the United States on August 1, 1953, AU became closely associated with the Board of Education of The United Methodist Church, which makes an annual contribution. Active management of the corporate affairs of the AU is vested in the Board of Trustees.

AU is not sectarian in its educational philosophy or in its academic programs. The United Methodist Church, recognizing the integral place of religion in the human experience of men and women, seeks to provide optimum opportunity for religious development on its campuses. However, it always has taken care to guarantee the values of academic freedom in its colleges and universities. The faculty and the student body of AU represent a diversity of religious as well as academic and national backgrounds and experiences. Moreover, the Board of Trustees has delegated to the faculty basic responsibility for planning and pursuing, according to its best judgment, the academic programs of the university.

Academic Organization

College of Arts and Sciences (CAS)

Department of American Studies
Department of Anthropology
Department of Art
Department of Biology
Department of Computer Science, Audio Technology, and Physics
Department of Chemistry
Degree Completion Programs
Department of Economics
Department of Education
Department of Environmental Studies
Department of Health and Fitness
Department of History
Department of Jewish Studies
Department of Language and Foreign Studies
Department of Literature
Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Department of Multimedia Design & Development
Department of Performing Arts
Department of Philosophy and Religion
Department of Psychology
Department of Sociology
Department of Women's and Gender Studies

Kogod School of Business (KSB)

Department of Accounting
Department of Finance
Department of International Business
Department of Management
Department of Marketing
Department of Information Technology

School of Communications (SOC)

Department of Film and Media Arts
Department of Journalism
Department of Public Communication

School of International Service (SIS)

Department of Comparative & Regional Studies
Department of Global Environmental Politics
Department of International Communication
Department of International Development
Department of International Economic Policy
Department of International Peace & Conflict Resolution
Department of International Politics
Department of U.S. Foreign Policy

School of Public Affairs (SPA)

Department of Government
Department of Justice, Law, & Society
Department of Public Administration

Washington College of Law (WCL)

Washington Semester Program (WSP)


AU has two campuses: The main campus off Ward Circle and the Tenley Campus. Additionally, AU also owns a few buildings in the Tenleytown area, as well as the Washington College of Law building in Spring Valley. Additionally, in cooperation with Capital Properties, AU operates Park Bethesda, a 258-unit luxury apartment complex in Bethesda, Maryland to house graduate and upperclassmen.

Main campus

AU's main campus occupies 84 acres (340,000 m²) in a residential neighborhood in northwest Washington, D.C., at the intersection of Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues—the top of Embassy Row. Highlights of the campus include a main quadrangle surrounded by several academic buildings, six residential halls, a 5,000-seat arena, and an outdoor amphitheatre.

The major and notable buildings include the following:

  • Jack I. and Dorothy G. Bender Library and Learning Resources Center
  • Mary Graydon Center, home to the main dining facilities, student organization offices, and the School of Communications. A history of the building (
  • Abbey Joel Butler Pavilion, administrative offices for the Office of Campus Life
  • Sports Center: Bender Arena, Reeves Aquatic Center
  • School of International Services, ground broken by President Dwight Eisenhower. A new building is slated to begin construction in 2006.
  • Hurst Hall, ground was broken for this first building in 1896 for what was to be the College of History.
  • McKinley Building, had its cornerstone laid by President Theodore Roosevelt. Slated to become the new home to the School of Communications.
  • Battelle-Tompkins Building, formerly the library until 1977 and now home to the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Ward Circle Building, built in 1968 as a home for the School of Government and Public Administration (now the School of Public Affairs). The largest classroom building on campus.
  • Watkins Art Building, home to AU arts programs, named after former art department chair Charles Watkins. Will be replaced by the new Katzen Arts Center.
  • Kay Spiritual Life Center, a nondenominational place of worship built in 1963, it is the home to the University Chaplains and is used for speeches and performances.
  • Kogod School of Business, formerly known as the Myers-Hutchins Building, and previous home to the Washington College of Law. Is set to annex the now empty Experimental Theatre and Butler Instructional Center in 2006.
  • Residences: There are 6 residence halls on the main campus, capable of housing approximately 3000 students. Anderson, Letts and Centennial halls make up the southern cluster of residence halls, and Leonard, McDowell and Hughes halls make up the northern cluster of residence halls. A Moai statue from Easter Island[1] (, received as a gift from the Embassy of Chile, sits between McDowell and Hughes halls, and is the center of several campus traditions.

Former buildings include:

  • Leonard Learning Center/Cassell Center
  • Clendenen Hall

Tenley campus

This campus, formerly the Immaculate School, is located half a mile east of the main campus, and was purchased by American University in 1987. During the academic year, Tenley Campus is home to the Washington Semester Program students, and during the summer, American University uses the residence halls for summer interns. Administratively, Tenley Campus is home to the Washington Semester Program, the Office of Development, University Publications, and Media Relations.

  • Capital Hall, the oldest and most ornate of the Tenley Campus buildings, it houses 170 students, a fitness center and the stained glass chapel that is used for dance and music recitals.
  • Congressional Hall, with 156 students, contains the central reception desk for the Tenley Campus
  • Federal Hall, housing 107 students, contains the mailroom and the cafeteria on its first floor.
  • Dunblane House, a small administrative building.
  • Constituion Building, an administrative building.
  • A sports field used for intramural sport matches.

AU Abroad

AU offers one of the most comprehensive and renowned study abroad programs in the United States. Open to both AU Students as well as students from other American universities, students can chose to participate in a number of diverse programs around the globe. Utilizing partner institutions as well as AU-operated programs abroad, students can take courses and/or intern in over 30 countries. Additionally, students may arrange to study at a non-partnered or hosted institution abroad through AU Abroad. Programs are offered by semester, year or summer.

Washington Semester program

AU also operates the popular "Washington Semester" program, open to subscribing colleges and universities nationwide and internationally. The purpose of the program is to bring students from various backgrounds together for a semester of study combining access to Washington, DC, insiders in a variety of different fields ranging from political science to journalism and the arts. Students enrolled in this program are also expected to find and hold an internship in their field of study during the 3-4 month program.

Public radio broadcasts

American University also operates a public radio station, WAMU, broadcasting at 88.5 mHz on the FM band. The commercial free station is affiliated with National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Radio International. The station began broadcasting as the student radio station, but developed into a professionally staffed station when the administration spun off the student radio station. Original programming includes the Diane Rehm Show ( and Kojo Nnamdi Show (


In 1997, AU was included as one of the top 50 "wired campuses" in the United States by a Yahoo! survey. Since adding a campus-wide advanced wireless broadband network in 2001, AU has been classified as one of the most "unwired" campuses ( in the U.S. by Intel. Recently, AU has expanded its wireless presence by teaming with T-Mobile to first convert AU into the first HotSpot campus in 2004 and then again in 2005 when the Kogod School of Business became the first business school to integrate RSS data services with Blackberry devices distributed to all graduate business students. In 2005 AU became one of the first Universities in the country to provide all students in campus housing with access to free and legal downloadable movie and music content via the Ruckus Network. The University Library also launched a program whereby its Media Services Department is converting films to digital format for exclusive use by faculty in teaching their coursework for streaming media content.

Notable American University Alumni

Main article: List of American University people

AU alumni are commonly found in government offices in the U.S. or abroad, embassarial posts, leading high-tech businesses or pushing the limits in the arts.

AU Trivia

  • Ten U.S. presidents have either served on the AU Board of Trustees or spoken on campus.
  • AUís School of Communication trained the cast and crew of MTVís Road Rules and the Real World in public speaking.

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