The American University is a private research university in Washington, D.C. Its main campus spans 90 acres on Ward Circle, in the Spring Valley neighborhood of Northwest D.C. AU was chartered by an Act of Congress in 1893 at the urging of Methodist bishop John Fletcher Hurst, who sought to create an institution that would promote public service, internationalism, and pragmatic idealism. AU broke ground in 1902, opened in 1914, and admitted its first undergraduates in 1925. Although affiliated with the United Methodist Church, religious affiliation is not a criterion for admission.
American University has eight schools and colleges: the School of International Service, College of Arts and Sciences, Kogod School of Business, School of Communication, School of Professional and Extended Studies, School of Public Affairs, School of Education, and the Washington College of Law. It has over 160 programs, including 71 bachelor's degrees, 87 master's degrees, and 10 doctoral degrees, as well as JD, LLM, and SJD programs. AU's student body numbers over 13,000 and represents all 50 U.S. states and 141 countries; around a fifth of students are international. It is classified among "R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity".
American University's alumni, faculty, and staff have included two Pulitzer Prize winners, two Nobel Prize winners, one United States Senator, 25 United States Representatives, 18 Ambassadors of the United States, and several foreign heads of state. American University is one of the top five feeder schools to the U.S. Foreign Service, Congressional staff, and other governmental agencies.
The American University was established in the District of Columbia by an Act of Congress on December 5, 1892, primarily due to the efforts of Methodist bishop John Fletcher Hurst, who aimed to create an institution that could train future public servants. Hurst also chose the site of the university, which at the time was the rural periphery of the District. After more than three decades devoted principally to securing financial support, the university was officially dedicated on May 15, 1914, with its first instructions beginning October of that year, when 28 students were enrolled, 19 of whom were graduates and the remainder special students not candidates for a degree. The First Commencement, at which no degrees were awarded, was held on June 2, 1915. The Second Annual Commencement was held the following year and saw the awarding of the first degrees: one master's degree and two doctor's degrees. AU admitted both women and African Americans, which was uncommon in higher education at the time. Among its first 28 students were five women, while an African American doctoral student was admitted in 1915.