Complex Problems

The AU Core First-Year Seminar

What is Complex Problems?

Complex Problems Seminars are small, 3 credit, first-year seminars that are taught by leading faculty at AU. These special-topics courses feature a range of unique subjects, from diversity on Broadway to digital citizenship, from genetic manipulation to immigration. These courses offer students a chance to work closely with faculty members and classmates as they wrestle with difficult issues and enduring questions.

Each seminar has a Program Leader who serves as a liaison between students and faculty, and helps students as they explore university-level inquiry in their first year of college.

Find My Seminar

Complex Problems is offered in the Fall and Spring semesters. Students must take a seminar within their first year at American University.
Living-Learning Community students take Complex Problems in the Fall in designated sections.

Check out the seminars we expect to offer

Visual Identities
The Material World
Information Overload!!
Act Like a Man
Living and Dying in DC
Making Up Your Life
Jerusalem: Myth, History, Modernity
Reading Michael Jackson
Myth, Fantasy, and Meaning
Social Justice or Libertarianism?
Cities: Destroyed and Reinvented
The Threat of Chemical Weapons
How are Latinxs Changing US
Ethics, Morals & Criminal Law
Ethical and Political Dimensions of Climate Change
Food Energy Water Nexus
Ethics, Morals & Criminal Law 2
Futures: What will be in 2040?
Understanding Sex and Gender
Constructions of Self and Other
Let's Talk About Sex Education
Legally Speaking: Clash of Ideas
Legally Speaking
Jihad: From the Caliphate to ISIS
Branding Nations and Cultures
Education: Problem or Solution?
21st Century Silk Road
Maxing Out Planet Earth
Obesity: A Complex Crisis
Immigrant America
The Big Short: Money and Power
Tactical Urbanism
Food Justice Matters
Defining American
You expect me to pay for that?
Organizations and World Change
The West's Problem of Evil
Fight Club: US War & Peace
The Art of Decision Making
Podcasts and Persuasion
Normalizing Bodies
Social Media for Social Good
Inventing Queer Lives
Religion and World Politics
Depicting the Divine
Electric! Music since Edison
The Art of Theft
Harsh Justice
Un-complicating Health Care
Perspectives on Mental Illness
Navigating Childhood
Place and Politics
13 Going on 30
Challenges in US Immigration
International Intervention
Prejudice: Who, How, Why
No Home, No Refuge
International Crisis Management
Welcome to the Anthropocene
Sex, Power, Human Trafficking
Is Global Citizenship a Dream?
Borders, Migration & Globalization
DNA in the Digital Age
Happiness: Pursuit of the Good Life
Reality After Einstein
The nature-society binary
Who’s watching you now?
Pollution Solutions
Plagues, Plots, and People
Contemporary World Cinema
Cultures of Corruption
Dying, Death, & the Afterlife
How to Sustain an Ocean World
What does it mean to be educated?
Problem of Poverty in America
What Causes Homelessness?
Global Hip-Hop & Resistance
Living as a Digital Citizen
Constructions of Self and Other
Depicting the Divine
Visual Identities
Whose Hip Hop Cultures
AIDS in America
Imagining Europe
What Causes Homelessness?
Imagining the Future
Plagues, Plots, and People
Podcasts and Persuasion
Homo Addictus
The West’s Problem of Evil
Let's Talk About Sex Education
Why Do We Punish
The Power of Curiosity
Underrepresentation in STEM
Playing with Genes
The Weight of Evidence and the Burden of Proof
Small Things with BIG Impact
The Bacon Terminator
Confronting Climate Change
Welcome to the Anthropocene
Exoplanets: Whole new worlds around other stars
Reality: Distorted/Augmented?
The Highs and Lows of Drugs
How to Create Better Worlds
Arab-Feminist-Musltim-Queer and Social Justice Work
Balancing Legal Interests
Living as a Digital Citizen
Competitive Advantage in Business
21st Century Silk Road
The Art of the Decision
Think Different: Design Thinking for Innovation
Sustainability and Entrepreneurship: Business Practices for a Sustainable Future
How Do We Understand Crisis
International Intervention
Global Hip-Hop & Resistance
History, Memory, Justice, and Forgetting
Imagining the Other
Who is DC
Poverty in a Rich Country
Quest for Justice
Is Feminism Dead?
America at Work
Judging Atrocity
Asia's Conflict "Flashpoints"
Wildlife Conservation
Locating the international
Quenching World Water Scarcity


  1. Complex Problems - Students may enroll in any Complex Problems seminar with the course number CORE-105
  2. For Transfer Students - Some sections are designated for transfer students with the course number CORE-106. Transfer students may also register for CORE-105.
  3. For Living-Learning Communities
    1. AU Scholars and CBRS - Invited students may apply through their respective programs and will be enrolled in sections with the course number CORE-106.
    2. University College - Students may apply to be enrolled in sections with the course number CORE-107.

Learning Outcomes

1. Identify and engage with complexity (or gray areas) within issues or contexts by explaining the factors influencing different positions

2. Demonstrate self-awareness by articulating your groups’ norms and biases

3. Use multiple perspectives to refine your understanding of an issue or context

4. Demonstrate civility through argumentation or intellectual exchange

1. Recognize genre, audience, and purpose of a “text”

2. Summarize an author’s or authors’ explicit message, main ideas, and major themes

3. Engage with a “text” by responding to it or putting it into conversation with other “texts” to build new knowledge

1. Identify the audience and apply this knowledge to make choices

2. Articulate a purpose or aim that is specific and manageable and focuses all elements of the work

3. Choose appropriate materials and effectively integrate them to accomplish the purpose/aim

4. Employ techniques appropriate for the context or situation

1. Incorporate feedback from faculty, staff, or peers in subsequent work

2. Model peer feedback practices that are appropriate and constructive

3. Reflect on feedback and revision to demonstrate metacognition as part of learning