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Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars

FDDS program Class of 2023 from left: Christian Mendoza Gomez, Alia Abdur-Rahman, Christopher Herrera, Isaiah Washington, Malik Gomes Cruz

The Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars (FDDS) program is one of American University’s most competitive scholarship opportunities for students with extraordinary talent, creative ability, and drive. As the university’s preeminent merit-based scholarship, FDDS awards scholars full tuition, mandatory fees, books, metro passes, and room and board.

Since 2010, AU has named more than 30 FDDS scholars. The program seeks to prepare a new generation of exceptional socially responsible leaders for complex challenges in an ever-changing world. Beyond allowing students to graduate without debt, FDDS provides a holistic mentoring model, matching faculty fellows and staff with each scholar.

Only five students a year are selected out of as many as 800 applicants. “The FDDS program recruits scholars who are committed to moving through the world intentionally and with purpose,” says managing director Wim Taylor. “They develop the mindset and philosophical approach that they are a part of something much bigger than themselves and with the expectation that they pay that forward.”

The program has opened a world of possibilities for Isaiah Washington, CAS/BA ’23. Washington, a junior majoring in literature with a minor in political science, is passionate about working at the intersections of journalism, law, and public policy. Increasing literacy, amplifying voices that have been historically silenced, and becoming a leader and mentor are just a few of his goals.

In our world, we can feel so limited by what we see and what we don’t see. FDDS opens up the world, showing us what we can achieve and building our confidence along the way.
—Isaiah Washington, CAS/BA 23, FDDS Scholarship Recipient

Thanks to FDDS, Washington is free to dig deeper into campus life, writing for The Blackprint, a student publication for minority voices. In addition, as student media board co-chair, he supervises all 10 AU student media organizations. Washington is also a teaching assistant and mentors first-year AU Honors students.

Through the Change Can’t Wait campaign, donors can invest in distinctive AU programs like FDDS that build and nurture a passionate, talented student body.

Create Your Legacy of Change

Be sure to download your complimentary brochure to learn more about ways to give to AU for Change Can’t Wait: The Campaign for American University. For all other planned giving questions, please contact Seth D. Speyer at 202-885-3411 or

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