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AU CORE CURRICULUM

CORE-107 Complex Problems Seminar Course Level: Undergraduate

Complex Problems Seminar (3) Topics vary by section. This required seminar for all students during their first year at American University demonstrates the value of approaching important conceptual problems and social issues from a variety of perspectives, often from multiple disciplines and including multiple voices. Students are introduced to the importance of incorporating diverse perspectives, clear communication, critical reading, and working with feedback. The seminars feature discussions, lectures, collaboration, and integrative learning. AU Core Foundation: Complex Problems. Usually Offered: fall and spring. Grading: A-F only. Permission: University College. Note: Students may not receive credit toward a degree for both CORE-105, and CORE-106 or CORE-107.

CORE-107-001
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Borders Migration & Globalizn
Borders, Migration and Globalization (3) Borders, migration, and globalization are terms invoked by the media and in everyday conversations; but it is important to dig deeply to understand what these terms mean. This course studies policies and the discourse around border security; the cause and effects of international migration; the origin of the term "globalization" and the theories associated with these phenomena. The course accounts for the social context that explains the rise of these ideas, as well as the push-back against what people see as the negative consequences of international migration and trade.
CORE-107-002
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: International Intervention
International Intervention (3) How does the international community work to support victims of mass violence, injustice, brutal dictatorships, and poverty around the world? Moreover, how has the inaction of the international community (in places such as Rwanda and Bosnia), as well as the recent failures of the West in the Middle East (e.g. Libya), shaped current military, humanitarian, and post-conflict peacebuilding interventions? Through readings, discussions, case studies, and video clips, students survey interventions in contexts of mass violence where vulnerable populations are at the mercy of dictatorships or rebel groups with little regard for human life and the multiple perspectives associated with how, when, and if international actors should intervene. The course explores the responses of the international community in post-conflict contexts, the interplay between various actors in these contexts, standard processes of peacebuilding, and critiques of these approaches from different disciplines.
CORE-107-003
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Prejudice: Who, How, Why
Prejudice: Who, How, Why (3) This course assumes that everyone is prejudiced to some extent (even when having the best intentions not to be) and considers potential origins of prejudice. The course examines the individual, socio-cultural, inter-group and systemic bases of prejudice. Through empirical readings, guest speakers, field trips, film, and even fairy tales, students consider how prejudice develops, is maintained and can be reduced. Studying the many different theories for the origins of prejudice provides a foundation for a multi-faceted approach to combatting and undermining prejudice in ourselves and others.
CORE-107-004
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Is Global Citizenship a Dream?
Is Global Citizenship a Dream? (3) With the recent rise of populism across the Western world, this course helps students with international aspirations to critically examine the emerging issues related to "being a global person." Course readings and team projects explore global citizenry and cover topics such as globalization, the sovereign state, economic interdependence, the global enterprise, ethics, prejudice, and intercultural skills. Outside class, student meet global leaders to discuss this course's implications.
CORE-107-005
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Sex, Power, Human Trafficking
Sex, Power, Human Trafficking (3) Slavery, or human trafficking in contemporary language, is one of the most controversial and enduring questions in history. Using interdisciplinary and international perspectives, this course explores changes and continuities in the institution of slavery from antiquity to the 21st century. The course analyzes how conceptualizations of gender, race, and religion shaped various forms of slavery. Students understand how the intersection of power, gender, and socio-economic status has made women and girls particularly vulnerable to enslavement and human trafficking.
CORE-107-006
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Welcome to the Anthropocene
Welcome to the Anthropocene (3) During the past 10,000 years, humans have become the primary driver of changes to the Earth's surface, ecosystems, biodiversity and chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans. The Anthropocene describes this new geological epoch of humans. This course explores the interface between humans and the natural world through an examination of cultural, economic, philosophical and scientific values of the environment and the role that humans continue to play in the alteration of the planet.
CORE-107-007
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: DNA in the Digital Age
DNA in the Digital Age (3) Sequencing the human genome began as a 13 year, $3 billion, multi-institutional project. Today, you can have your DNA sequenced for just $79 during the holiday-sale through ancestry.com. This course uses readings, film, and critical essays to begin by covering the basics of genetic inheritance and work its way to applications such human migration patterns, forensics, and personalized medicine. The course ends with a discussion of the future of DNA.
CORE-107-008
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Happiness Pursuit of Good Life
Happiness: Pursuit of the Good Life (3) Happiness is considered by many to be the ultimate goal in life; virtually everyone wants to be happy. The American Colonies' Declaration of Independence takes it as a self-evident truth that the "pursuit of happiness" is an "inalienable right" comparable to life and liberty. This course explores what makes happiness so elusive, a problem as true in the age of antiquities as it is today. The course content presents diverse perspectives aiming to define happiness, then examines individual practices designed to bring happiness to one's life, and lastly assesses larger scale initiatives, such as social policies, behavioral incentives, and the role of institutions in supplying the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Students engage with these aspects through the prism of their own personal experiences, and along the way confronting and reassessing their assumptions about "the good life."
CORE-107-009
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Resilience
Resilience (3) How can individuals grow their own resilience? This course explores the complexity of preventing mental illness, specifically the mood disorders of depression, anxiety, and PTSD, in the US. Through a mix of readings including the popular press, social media, academic articles, memoir, and self-exploration texts, reflection and active seminars, field trips to view 'outsider art,' and homework on building personal and communal resilience, students work on two underlying complex problems: how to integrate individual and systemic responsibility for mental wellness and how people change.
CORE-107-010
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Challng in U.S. (Im)Migration
Challenges in U.S. (Im)Migration (3) One of the challenges to advancing the debate over immigration in the United States is the tension between those who are apprehensive and those who are optimistic about the impact of newcomers on the receiving society. This course explores from multiple perspectives what makes migration in the U.S. a challenge for newcomers and for the receiving society. The scope of the course spans from the migrant's personal experience (e.g., why and how they leave the home of origin, the stressors of acculturation, a sense of identity in the new homeplace) and changes in the receiving community (e.g., schools, employment, and neighborhoods), to the mutual influence evidenced through attitudes, cuisine, media, and policies.
CORE-107-011
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Juvenile (in)justice
Juvenile (In)justice (3) Juvenile delinquency poses difficult and interesting problems for youth policy and criminal justice policy. This course looks at the misconduct of youths that brings them within the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts and focuses on the complex problem of whether a youth will stay in the juvenile delinquency system or be waived and transferred to the adult criminal justice system. Student look specifically at the legal, social, and policy determinations and implications of that decision. The course explores the intersection between legal and mental culpability that is critical to understanding the issue of waiver.
CORE-107-012
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: The Art of Theft
The Art of Theft (3) From William Shakespeare to Beyonce, much of what we consider original art depends on borrowed text, recycled images, and familiar melodies. This course considers questions of creative ownership. Drawing from scholarship by ethicists, cultural critics, and legal scholars, students analyze case studies in music, film, literature, and visual art. Working in groups, students trace intellectual property attitudes within a chosen genre or institution (i.e. death metal, Persian poetry, Pixar films). For the final project, after meeting working artists in the Washington, DC area, students compose a creative work that borrows responsibly.
CORE-107-013
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Harsh Justice
Harsh Justice (3) The United States leads the Western world in the use of harsh punishments: life sentences, death sentences, and extended solitary confinement. Each of these punishments is a type of death penalty: life sentence prisoners are sentenced to die in prison, death sentence prisoners are sentenced to be killed in prison, and prisoners sentenced to extended terms in solitary confinement (often in notorious "Supermax" prisons) are sentenced to what has been described as a living death. As a general matter, conditions in American prisons are uniquely painful and degrading, and have been described by researchers as "dehumanizing," "hellish" and ultimately "unsurvivable" in the face of widespread violations of human dignity. This course considers harsh sanctions and the prison experience in general, from different points of view, drawing on the arts (primarily poetry) and the social sciences (primarily criminology).
CORE-107-014
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Creating Social Entrepreneurs
Creating Social Entrepreneurs (3) Social entrepreneurs are individuals who create businesses to address social problems or needs that are unmet by governments and current markets. They are typically motivated by social benefit but may also attain clear economic benefits to become sustainable and survive a turbulent marketplace. Students analyze and synthesize diverse perspectives on how best to create and support social entrepreneurs. The course emphasizes discussion, active learning, guest lecturers and associated groups in the greater DC area, and students have the opportunity to start their own social enterprise and to interview a social entrepreneur.
CORE-107-015
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Navigating Childhood
Navigating Childhood (3) This course focuses on the extent to which inequality and public policy affect a child's experience of childhood. The course draws on historical, sociological and legal perspectives to examine what rights children have (and when they might lose them), the role of the state in protecting children and how the zip code where a child is born may affect a child's life trajectory. The course primarily focuses on children's diverse experiences within the United States, but there is some content related to international contexts.
CORE-107-016
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Perspectives on Mental Illness
Perspectives on Mental Illness (3) This course explores not only the scientific basis for mental illness and treatment, but also how cultural, political, and economic forces impact mental health policy. Students consider issues such as whether patients have rights to refuse treatment, how socio-cultural perspectives of mental illness influence treatment, and how mental illness should affect culpability and sentencing in the courtroom. Students read and respond to narratives by the mentally ill, clinical and legal case studies, scientific review articles and congressional testimony, Students meets experts in mental health policy and advocacy both in the classroom and on Capitol Hill.
CORE-107-017
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: The Nature-Society Binary
The Nature-Society Binary (3) Many people would agree with the statement that we, humans, are part of nature and whatever harms the rest of nature harms ourselves and future generations. Yet, when social scientists study society, they often analyze the social world as acting on, and thus distinct from, nature. When environmentalists mobilize, they act to protect the environment from human activity. This course delves into this paradox, which necessarily involves multiple and conflicting perspectives on the relationship between nature and society. Specifically, the course explores two present-day cases in which this paradox plays out: both the Anthropocene literature and biosecurity policies and institutions reinforce the enduring nature-society binary and have invited critiques from scholars and activists alike.
CORE-107-018
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Plagues, Plots, and People
Plagues, Plots, and People (3) Diseases, colloquially, are caught, transmitted, and contracted in many different ways: miasmas, bugs, germs, and vectors--to name just a few. How does the language people use to describe illness indicate beliefs about illness? This class studies historical, scientific, and popular accounts of illness to explore this question and others. Students explore whether disease creates immunity or results from lack of it, whether class, sexuality, race, gender, or geography protect against disease or expose people to it, how biomedical narratives of illness inflect cultural practices and social relations, and how the life cycles of pathogenic microorganisms shaped human history. This course's materials include science writing, theory, film, and literature--as well as images and objects from the National Library of Medicine and the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology at the Smithsonian Institute.
CORE-107-019
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Pollution Solutions
Pollution Solutions (3) In this course, students pursue issues surrounding pollution in the environment including how and why pollution occurs. The course investigates the sources of various air, water, and land pollutants and looks at environmental and health effects and potential solutions. Students participate in and benefit from diverse assignments including case studies, debates/ role-playing, peer-teaching, and facilitated discussions on assigned readings from written texts, documentaries, and topic-specific exhibits.
CORE-107-020
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Depicting the Divine
Depicting the Divine (3) Using Washington, DC's rich art museums and centers of contemporary religious practice, this course explores the controversies and orthodoxies surrounding godly representations across geographies, temporalities, and cultures. Drawing on a wide range of sources, from analysis of ancient scriptural texts to engagement with DC community leaders, students investigate arguments for and against representation of the divine, and analyze the visual strategies used by artists constrained by dogmatic limitations. In a globalized society which regularly witnesses terrorist destruction of religious images, depicting the divine is a complex and ancient problem still relevant today. The course examines questions such as what does God look like, is the divine representable, and whether it is morally dangerous to visualize divinity.
CORE-107-021
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Inventing Queer Lives
Inventing Queer Lives (3) This course examines how dominant understandings of LGBT identity came into being in the Western world and, subsequently, the alternative paradigms for sexual and gender difference that have been offered by racial minorities, transgender communities, and non-Western cultures. Students encounter literary texts as well as films, historical documents, and perspectives from sociology and anthropology. Assignments consist of various formal and informal writing assignments and class presentations. Students explore the DC area's queer cultural resources, including (potentially) archives, performances, cinema, and exhibits.
CORE-107-022
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Religion and World Politics
Religion and World Politics (3) The interaction between religion, society and state has given rise to competing ideological and nationalist movements in America and throughout the world. Methodically evaluating such case studies as Evangelicals, Muslim Brothers, Zionists, and Hindutva advocates, students engage these forces through readings as well as speakers and field visits. Individually and collectively, students examine how different religious movements have shaped the struggles for identity, democracy and peace. Exploring these thorny issues experientially, students find this course is founded on the notion that religion can be a source of harmony and peacemaking as it has been a source of division and conflict.
CORE-107-023
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Electric Music Since Edison
Electric Music Since Edison (3) This course considers how electronics have impacted listening, musical creativity, responses, expectations and culture. These questions are examined through multiple lenses and disciplines where art, science, technology and society meet at sometimes surprising but undeniable crossroads. Students observe, analyze, experiment and even create with electronics. Special attention is given to the advent of sound in film as well as to new language/vocabularies in music, new sounds as the result of newly designed instruments and synthesis techniques, digital versus analogue applications and, the computer.
CORE-107-024
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Fight Club: US War and Peace
Fight Club: U.S. War and Peace (3) This course looks broadly and critically at the issues of war and peace in U.S. society, focusing on Washington, D.C. institutions that play a key role in both areas. Students explore both historical and modern issues addressing how the United States creates, maintains and, at times, contributes to a global culture of violence. Students explore these subjects as they simultaneously work to understand the human cost of war through readings, speakers, films, documentaries and site visits in the city. Students also understand the activist communities at work trying to stop interventions and actions abroad as the course looks at media institutions that play a role in shaping public opinion.
CORE-107-025
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: The West's Problem of Evil
The West's Problem of Evil (3) Great minds of every generation have struggled to explain why bad things happen to good people, why humans are cruel to one another, and, especially for the followers of the Abrahamic faiths, how a world can have evil in it if it's been created by a god who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. This course discusses the religious origins of the classic "problem of evil," scientific contributions to the discussion, and the legal ramifications of beliefs about evil. This reading- and discussion-heavy course looks for guidance from texts and films, nonfiction and fiction, such as philosopher Susan Neiman's Evil in Modern Thought, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and writings on neuroscience from David Eagleman, along with visits to sites around Washington, DC such as the Holocaust Museum.
CORE-107-026
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Incivility
Incivility (3) In our society, divided by inequality and ideology, many demand civil discourse to solve the problem of incivility. This course challenges our assumptions about incivility and "civil discourse." Course themes may include how ideals of civility connect to language and emotion; how the normalization of civility connects to colonialism, imperialism, and globalization; whether movements employing 'uncivil' practices (suffrage, labor, civil rights, feminist, LGBTQ, disability rights, Occupy, Black Lives Matter) reject civility as an ideal and/or challenge us to think more deeply about truly "civil discourse." Students read texts from disciplines such as literature, philosophy, political science, anthropology, technology studies, gender studies, and sociology.
CORE-107-027
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Social Media for Social Good
Social Media for Social Good (3) How have organizers, nonprofits, and marketers used digital tools to try to make the world a better place? Students explore the role of information literacy, how to engage those without technological access, whether online campaigns lead to offline action, and hashtag activism. Readings cover a range of topics, disciplines, and case studies, pushing students to question the role that social media plays in helping the public. Note: No prior experience with social media, activism or advocacy required.
CORE-107-028
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Normalizing Bodies
Normalizing Bodies (3) This course examines the distinction between "normal" and "abnormal" bodies and investigates the complex ways in which abnormal bodies become "problems" for medicine. Looking at historical examples, e.g. pathologization of slaves' desires to flee captivity, nineteenth century diagnosis and treatment of "hysteria," medical treatment of height (tallness in girls, short stature in boys) and atypical sex anatomies (intersex bodies), the course asks what normality means, and explores the effects of meanings we may too often take for granted. Students visit the Smithsonian Museum of American History to speak with the curator and specialist of disability and hear guest lectures on normalizing surgical interventions for children.
CORE-107-029
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Reality After Einstein
Reality after Einstein (3) What is reality? Seemingly contradicting everyday experience, current theories of physics suggest we live in a quantum universe in which objects exist simultaneously in multiple locations, and where cause and effect, even time and space, may be an illusion. Students explore, via discussions, readings, interactive demonstrations, guest speakers, hands-on activities, and experiments, scientific ideas about the nature of reality, critically examining the evidence and arguments for these theories, and debating the implications. Investigations are informed by physics, astronomy, computer science, and philosophy.
CORE-107-030
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Podcasts and Persuasion
Podcasts and Persuasion (3) Any topic or theme you can imagine has a podcast covering it. Podcasts are modern, flexible modes of storytelling. But the sense of shared experience and bond between listener and host means listeners are less likely to challenge the purpose, presented information, and analysis. Through listening and analyzing podcasts, the course explores how podcasts inform and shape our experiences and our understanding of ourselves and others in complex, compelling ways.
CORE-107-031
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: The Art of Decision Making
The Art of Decision Making (3) Decision making is one of our most important activities in both our professional and personal lives. In this course, decision-making processes are unpacked and thoroughly analyzed. They are viewed through the lenses of psychology, business, economics as well as various cultural perspectives to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Students are guided to see patterns and come to understand that there are not "right or wrong" approaches but rather "better or worse" approaches to decision making.
CORE-107-033
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: International Crisis Mgmt
International Crisis Management (3) Humans seldom seek conflict for its own sake, but nations, regional groupings, and ethnic groups often compete and sometimes clash. Rivalries and conflicts are more often managed than "resolved." The course brings in Washington resources in addressing conflict such as embassies, U.S. government, think tanks, and regional advocacy groups. Readings and videos highlight strategy, comparative advantage, anthropological views of conflict, negotiation skills, and "tool kits" for use in a crisis. Simulations of real-life scenarios put students in roles such as governments, multilateral organizations, NGOs, private sector, military, and intelligence organizations. Class modules draw from methods developed at US government agencies, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the United Nations.
CORE-107-034
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: No Home, No Refuge
No Home, No Refuge (3) Currently, around 65 million people across the globe are forcibly displaced, many of whom are classified as refugees. Half of the world's displaced are children. This course introduces students to some of the critical issues of forced displacement in the 21st century. It examines some of the ethical and political questions surrounding forced displacement, and pertinent challenges that have arisen including anti-immigrant movements and questions of security regarding the world's displaced. Through memoirs, scholarship, film, and guest speakers, students engage with some of the most pressing issues surrounding the crisis of global displacement in our times.
CORE-107-035
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Who's Watching You Now?
Who's Watching You Now? (3) Surveillance is often dismissed as the concern only of those who have something to hide. In this course, students explore the various ways we are monitored from birth by the state, healthcare system, employers, and parents, to businesses trying to sell products. The course considers questions such as why people acquiesce, who owns these technologies, who has the ability to resist surveillance, and what are the emotional, legal, and political effects are.
CORE-107-037
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Place and Politics
Place and Politics (3) So much of our lives today takes place in the virtual world of the internet that it is easy to forget or ignore the ways in which our physical environment affects our behavior and our self-understanding. This course explores different theories of place and why place matters for politics. The course includes an examination of how architecture and design can create or destroy community, the consequences of residential segregation, the importance of public space and monuments, the relationship between place and civic virtue, and the meaningfulness of boundaries.
CORE-107-038
Term: Fall 2018 Regular Term
Course Level: Undergraduate
Section Title: Why Do We Punish
Why Do We Punish (3) This course uses literature, philosophy and the social sciences to understand the complex phenomenon of punishment. Students examine why parents punish their children, why we punish ourselves as well as why the state punishes individuals. The course considers whether there are any links between the different forms of punishment and whether there are forms of punishment that cannot be justified both on the individual and the state level.