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2015–2016 Renewed Core Pilot Courses

To fulfill the University’s Core Curriculum requirement, undergraduates must complete 15 three-credit courses, which they may select from a wide variety of offerings across the academic disciplines. For 2015–16, Boston College is introducing new interdisciplinary courses, open only to first-year students, that will help satisfy the CORE REQUIREMENTS. These pilot courses, categorized as either COMPLEX PROBLEMS courses or ENDURING QUESTIONS courses, will be taught collaboratively by two faculty members from different fields. You may register for a Core Pilot Course during your summer Orientation Session in consultation with your academic advisor.


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The centerpiece of Jesuit education has always been a common curriculum that emphasizes the study of defining works in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. The Boston College Core is designed to provide a broad understanding of the forces that have shaped world history and culture, challenging students to think across the disciplines, to make good decisions, and to communicate effectively in an increasingly complex world.

To fulfill Core requirements, each student must complete:

  • 1 course in Arts—Fine Arts, Music, Theatre
  • 1 course in Cultural Diversity
  • 2 courses in History
  • 1 course in Literature—Classics, English, Germanic Studies, Romance Languages and Literatures, Slavic & Eastern Languages and Literatures
  • 1 course in Mathematics
  • 2 courses in Natural Science—Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Physics
  • 2 courses in Philosophy
  • 2 courses in Social Science—Economics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology
  • 2 courses in Theology
  • 1 course in Writing

Courses that satisfy Core requirements, by department


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Each of these six-credit courses, team-taught by professors from different disciplines, satisfies two Core requirements. Complex Problems courses consist of three 50-minute lecture classes and one 90-minute lab session each week. There will also be weekly evening meetings for reflection and integration, assisted by staff from the Division of University Mission and Ministry and the Office of Student Affairs. Enrollment in each Complex Problems course will be limited to 76 students.


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These linked pairs of courses are taught by professors from different disciplines, who collaborate in choosing common readings and questions for consideration. The same group of students takes each class, which meets 150 minutes per week. Four evening meetings for reflection and integration will be scheduled over the course of the semester. Taken together, the courses are worth six credits and fulfill two core requirements. Enrollment in each Enduring Questions course will be limited to the same 19 students in each pair of classes.

Play Global Implications of Climate Change video
Complex Problems | Fall 2015


Brian Gareau, Sociology, and Tara Pisani Gareau, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Course description

SOCY1501 / EESC1501

Students will learn about the science of climate change—a defining issue of our time—and explore the social and ethical issues raised by its disproportionate impact on countries that produce relatively little greenhouse gas. We will study the use of different energy sources and their effects on carbon emissions, and explore the responses of governments, businesses, religious communities, and individuals to climate change.

1 Social Science + 1 Natural Science

Brian Gareau, associate professor, faculty page Tara Pisani Gareau, visiting assistant professor, faculty page
Play Understanding Race, Gender, and Violence video
Complex Problems | Fall 2015


Marilynn Johnson, History, and Shawn McGuffey, Sociology

Course description

HIST1503 / SOCY1503

This course explores the roots of violence and the nature of violent acts around the globe from historical and sociological perspectives. Paying particular attention to race and gender-based violence, we will consider its meaning to members of minorities, women, and LGBT people who are frequently among its targets. Students will work with campus and community groups who are seeking ways to reduce conflict and violence through political organizing, legislation, and conflict resolution strategies.

1 History + 1 Social Science

Marilynn Johnson, professor, faculty page Shawn McGuffey, associate professor, faculty page
Play Truth-telling video
Enduring Questions | Fall 2015


Allison Adair, English


Sylvia Sellers-Garcia, History

Course description

ENGL1701 / HIST1701

Do primary sources tell the truth? Do literary techniques reveal truth, or do they obscure it? When does imagination produce truth? The disciplines of history and English understand “truth” in different ways. These courses consider those perspectives, using texts drawn from medieval to modern times and from Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

1 Literature + 1 History

Allison Adair, associate professor, faculty page Sylvia Sellers-Garcia, associate professor, faculty page
Play The Body in Sickness and Health video
Enduring Questions | Fall 2015


Jane Ashley, Nursing


Laura Tanner, English

Course description

SOCY1702 / ENGL1702

Taken together, these courses grapple with questions about normal human development, health and sickness, caregiving; our responsibilities to one another in the face of aging, illness, poverty, and disability; and the relationship between the body and the mind. Jane Ashley will offer a nurse’s view, paying particular attention to the perspectives of patients and caregivers. Laura Tanner will examine these issues through the lens of American literature, asking how the human body shapes identity in a variety of contexts such as illness, obesity, trauma, and aging.

1 Social Science + 1 Literature

Jane Ashley, associate professor, faculty page Laura Tanner, professor, faculty page
Play Humans, Nature, and Creativity video
Enduring Questions | Fall 2015


Min Song, English


Holly Vande Wall, Philosophy

Course description

ENGL1703 / PHIL1703

Our rationality and capacity for abstract thought lead us to distinguish between humans and nature, although we clearly have an intimate and interdependent relationship with the natural world. Using sources from antiquity to recent times, we will ask what it means to be human and how we define nature, and explore the dynamics of the complex relationship between the two.

1 Literature + 1 Philosophy

Min Song, professor, faculty page Holly VandeWall, assistant professor of the practice, faculty page
Play Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity video
Complex Problems | Spring 2016


Devin Pendas, History, and Maxim D. Shrayer, Slavic and Eastern Languages and Literatures

Course description

HIST1501 / ENGL1501

“Genocide” and “Crimes against Humanity” are legal terms first defined in 1945 in the context of bringing Nazi criminals to justice. The phenomena they describe were hardly new in the 1940s, nor have they disappeared since. The course explores the complex and burdensome history of mass murder of ethnic, religious, and socio-political populations across a number of cases, including the Armenian genocide, Stalin’s genocides, the Holocaust (Shoah), Cambodia, and Rwanda. What forces gave rise to genocide and mass atrocities? How have individuals, both victims and perpetrators, experienced and witnessed traumatic events? How have individual states and nations, ethnic and religious groups, and the international community responded to these crimes?

1 History + 1 Literature

Devin Pendas, associate professor, faculty page Maxim Shrayer, professor, faculty page
Play Power, Justice, War video
Enduring Questions | Spring 2016


Robert Bartlett, Political Science


Aspen Brinton, Philosophy

Course description

POLI1701 / PHIL1701

These courses explore the morality of human conflict as perceived in ancient Greece and in modern political philosophy. While both courses will make use of Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars and Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, Robert Bartlett will concentrate on Thucydides’ The War of the Peloponnesians and Athenians while Aspen Brinton will make use of a variety of modern authors. Veterans of recent military conflicts will visit the class to provide perspective and we will challenge students to formulate and articulate their own views.

1 Social Science + 1 Philosphy

Robert Bartlett, professor, faculty page Aspen Brinton, assistant professor, faculty page
Play Epidemics, Disease, and Humanity video
Enduring Questions | Spring 2016


Mary Kathleen Dunn, Biology


Scott Cummings, Theatre

Course description

BIOL1701 / THTR1701

Using historical cases such as the Black Death of the Middle Ages and the 1918 flu epidemic, students will learn basic concepts of biology and explore social, political, economic, and social issues that arise from human encounters with pathogens. “Devising Theater” will serve as a “lab” in which students create and perform theater pieces based on what they have learned. Students will confront questions about how society balances the needs of the one versus the many, the complexities of communication, and the role of emotions in decision making.

1 Natural Science + 1 Arts

Mary Kathleen Dunn, associate professor, faculty page Scott Cummings, professor, faculty page
Play Spiritual Exercises: Engagement video
Enduring Questions | Spring 2016


Brian Robinette, Theology


Daniel Callahan, Music

Course description

THEO1701 / MUSA1701

Deeply meaningful experiences of beauty, truth, good, or the divine don’t “just happen.” Rather, they usually are the result of being in the right place and time with the right preparation and mindset. Students will study influential Western thinkers and examine works of art and performance through the ages to understand how and why profound experiences tend to occur to those who are mindful and prepared to engage. Students taking “Spiritual Exercises” must register for its prerequisite, “Theological Inquiry” (THEO0170001), in Fall 2015.

1 Theology + 1 Arts

Brian Robinette, associate professor, faculty page Daniel Callahan, assistant professor, faculty page