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 you a chance to work closely with faculty members and classmates as you wrestle with difficult issues and enduring questions.

You will choose a Complex Problems seminar to take in the Fall or Spring of your first year at American University.

Each seminar has a Program Leader who serves as a liaison between you and your professor, and helps you explore university-level inquiry in your first year of college.

Find My Seminar

Browse the catalog of seminar descriptions published on Edspace before registering for Complex Problems. The detailed descriptions allow you to find an available seminar that sparks your curiosity, speaks to your passions, or challenges you to consider new ideas.

Current and upcoming seminars

Visual Identities
The Material World
Act Like a Man
Living and Dying in DC
Making Up Your Life
Jerusalem: Myth, History, Modernity
Reading Michael Jackson
Myth, Fantasy, and Meaning
Wildlife Conservation
Social Justice or Libertarianism?
Cities: Destroyed and Reinvented
The Threat of Chemical Weapons
How are Latinxs Changing US
Ethics, Morals & Criminal Law
Food Energy Water Nexus
Ethics, Morals & Criminal Law
Futures: What Will be in 2040?
Understanding Sex and Gender
Constructions of Self and Other
Let's Talk About Sex Education
Legally Speaking
Jihad: From the Caliphate to ISIS
Education: Problem or Solution?
21st Century Silk Road
Maxing Out Planet Earth
Obesity: A Complex Crisis
Immigrant America
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
Perspectives on Mental Illness
Navigating Childhood
Place and Politics
Juvenile Injustice
Challenges in US Immigration
International Intervention
Prejudice: Who, How, Why
No Home, No Refuge
International Crisis Management
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
What Does it Mean to be Educated?
What Causes Homelessness?
Global Hip-Hop & Resistance

Doing Better at Doing Good
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
Exoplanets: Whole New Worlds Around Other Stars
Reality: Distorted/Augmented?
The Highs and Lows of Drugs
How to Create Better Worlds
Arab-Feminist-Muslim-Queer and Social Justice Work
Legally Speaking
21st Century Silk Road
The Art of the Decision
Sustainability and Entrepreneurship
How Do We Understand Crisis
International Intervention
Global Hip-Hop & Resistance
Imagining the Other
Who is DC
Quest for Justice
Future of Technology Policy
Judging Atrocity
Asia's Conflict "Flashpoints"
Wildlife Conservation
Locating the International
Quenching World Water Scarcity

There are three ways for you to browse the Complex Problems Spring 2019 seminar descriptions:

Catalog of seminar descriptions (Edspace)
Schedule of Classes


  1. Complex Problems - Students may enroll in any Complex Problems seminar with the course number CORE-105
  2. For Transfer Students - In Spring 2019, four CORE-106 sections are designated for transfer students: sections 001, 002, 003, and 004. Transfer students should consult with their academic advisor before registering for Complex Problems
  3. For Living-Learning Communities - LLC students take Complex Problems in the Fall
    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

You will have the chance to demonstrate all of the following learning outcomes in your Complex Problems seminar. The topical nature of these seminars means that you will engage with the learning outcomes in the context of the course.

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

B.  Multiple Perspectives. Use multiple perspectives to refine your understanding of an issue or context

C. Awareness. Investigate the sources of your own groups’ norms and biases

D. Civility. Demonstrate civility through argumentation or intellectual exchange

A.  Audience. Identify the audience to make choices about how to communicate your ideas

B. Sources. Integrate materials or sources to develop and refine your ideas

C. Organization. Use organizational strategies to develop a clear purpose or aim

A. Summary. Summarize an author’s or authors’ message, main points, and supporting ideas

B. Response. Engage with a “text” by responding to it

C. Conversation. Put “texts” into conversation with other “texts”

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

B. Metacognition. Practice metacognition by reflecting on feedback and your revision processes

A. Connect. Connect experiences and academic learning