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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 2016–17, 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.

THE CORE

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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

COMPLEX PROBLEMS COURSES

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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.

ENDURING QUESTIONS COURSES

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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 Planet in Peril video
Complex Problems | Fall 2016

PLANET IN PERIL: THE HISTORY AND FUTURE OF HUMAN IMPACTS ON THE PLANET

Prasannan Parthasarathi, History, and Juliet Schor, Sociology

Course description

HIST150501 / SOCY150901

This course addresses crises of climate, biodiversity, and the ecosystem from the perspectives of sociology and history. Its focus is on both causes and solutions (e.g., state policy, social movements, individual action, and social innovation). Students will examine ecological overshoot—what happens when humanity’s annual demand exceeds what the earth’s ecosystem can renew each year—and explore the roles of inequality, power, and the state. Topics to be covered include the Columbian exchange, forests, agriculture, water, climate change, toxins, and population.

1 History II + 1 Social Science

Prasannan Parthasarathi, professor, faculty page Juliet Schor, professor, faculty page

Enrollment is now open! To register for this class please complete both steps:

[1] First, enroll in both HIST150501 and SOCY150901 on UIS (meets MWF at 1 p.m.). You will automatically be enrolled in the course's evening Reflection sessions on Thursdays at 6 p.m.

[2] Then, select one of the following lab times and enroll in it. The labs are 75 minutes long. It does not matter which departmental prefix is used: HIST150601 (Tues. 9), HIST150602 (Tues. 10:30), HIST150603 (Tues. 4:30), HIST150604 (Tues. 3), SOCY151001 (Thurs. 9), SOCY151002 (Thurs. 10:30), SOCY151003 (Thurs. 4:30), SOCY151004 (Thurs. 3)

Play Can Creativity Save the World video
Complex Problems | Fall 2016

CAN CREATIVITY SAVE THE WORLD?

Crystal Tiala, Theatre, and Spencer Harrison, CSOM

Course description

SOCY150701 / THTR150101

What are the world’s most complex problems, and how will humans solve them? What knowledge and tools do we need to forge a new and better world? Students explore the best thinking in business and the arts to understand creativity and innovative thinking. Activities, experiments, readings, and reflections help develop the skills and confidence to build a creative community in class. Can creativity save the world? We hope you will be part of the answer.

1 Social Science + 1 Arts

Crystal Tiala, associate professor, faculty page Spencer Harrison, associate professor, faculty page

Enrollment is now open! To register for this class please complete both steps:

[1] First, enroll in both THTR150101 and SOCY150701 on UIS (meets MWF at 1 p.m.). You will automatically be enrolled in the course's evening Reflection sessions on Tuesdays at 6 p.m.

[2] Then, select one of the following lab times and enroll in it. The labs are 75 minutes long. It does not matter which departmental prefix is used: SOCY150801 (Tues. 12), SOCY150802 (Tues. 1:30), THTR150201 (Thurs. 12), THTR150202 (Thurs. 1:30)

Play Truth-telling in Literature video
Enduring Questions | Fall 2016

TRUTH-TELLING IN LITERATURE

Allison Adair, English

TRUTH-TELLING IN HISTORY

Sylvia Sellers-Garcia, History

Course description

ENGL170101 / HIST170101

Do primary sources tell the truth? Is it possible to know the truth about the past? Is it possible to record or to author truth? What obligations does an author have to tell the truth? History and English understand “truth” in different ways. These courses explore both perspectives, using texts drawn from medieval to modern times and from Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Students will explore the challenges of reliable and unreliable narration, cross-cultural translation, and expectations for works of historical fiction.

1 Literature + 1 History

Allison Adair, associate professor, faculty page Sylvia Sellers-Garcia, associate professor, faculty page
Play Humans, Nature, and Creativity video
Enduring Questions | Fall 2016

HUMANS, NATURE, AND CREATIVITY

Min Song, English

INQUIRING ABOUT HUMANS AND NATURE

Holly VandeWall, Philosophy

Course description

ENGL170301 / PHIL170301

What does it mean to be human? How do we define nature? What responsibilities do humans have to nature? These courses consider responses to these questions from the time of Western antiquity to the present. Our human experience as rational individuals capable of abstract thought has set us apart from nature, yet we are not wholly outside of it. We have an intimate and interdependent relationship with the rest of creation. Can exploring and critiquing this relationship help us to think about pressing environmental issues in insightful and original ways? What kind of balance can we strike between the “human” and the “natural”?

1 Literature + 1 Philosophy

Min Song, professor, faculty page Holly VandeWall, assistant professor of the practice, faculty page
Play Spritual Excercises: Engagement, Empathy, Ethics video
Enduring Questions | Fall 2016

SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: ENGAGEMENT, EMPATHY, ETHICS

Brian Robinette, Theology

AESTHETIC EXERCISES: ENGAGEMENT, EMPATHY, ETHICS

Daniel Callahan, Music

Course description

THEO170101 / MUSA170101

Deeply meaningful experiences of beauty, truth, good, or the divine don’t “just happen.” 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. These courses introduce students to a variety of “spiritual exercises” that have helped shape the Christian theological traditions of the East and West and to a range of artwork and performances traversing media and frames, from ancient sculpture to contemporary sports.

1 Theology I + 1 Arts

Brian Robinette, associate professor, faculty page Daniel Callahan, assistant professor, faculty page
Play Love, Gender and Marriage video
Enduring Questions | Fall 2016

LOVE, GENDER, AND MARRIAGE: THE WESTERN LITERARY TRADITION

Franco Mormando, Romance Languages and Literatures

LOVE, GENDER, AND MARRIAGE: WRITING & REWRITING THE TRADITION

Treseanne Ainsworth, English

Course description

RLRL337301 / ENGL170401

Examining the concept of romantic love from the Middle Ages to the present, these courses analyze the related realities of gender and marriage through a variety of literary, theological, legal, and political texts as well as forms of popular culture such as film. Students will undertake a range of assignments: rhetorical analyses, personal editorials, event reflections, and a longer research project with a multimedia component. They will also engage current debate in American society over the nature, purpose, and definition of marriage.

1 Writing + 1 Literature

Franco Mormando, professor, faculty page Treseanne Ainsworth, assistant professor, faculty page
Play Reading and Writing Health, Illnes and Disability video
Enduring Questions | Fall 2016

READING AND WRITING HEALTH, ILLNESS, AND DISABILITY

Amy Boesky, English

THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF HEALTH AND ILLNESS

Sara Moorman, Sociology

Course description

ENGL170501 / SOCY170301

What is the difference between a sick cow and a sick human being? How does literature express suffering? Do narrative forms constrain or challenge stereotypes of illness or disability? These courses examine the varied meanings societies have given the experience of health and illness over time and across cultures. From social theory and contemporary media to novels, memoirs, poems, and personal essays, representations of suffering, health, illness, and disability have long expressed and shaped our experiences and values.

1 Literature + 1 Social Science

Amy Boesky, professor, faculty page Sara Moorman, associate professor, faculty page
Play Science and Ethics of Climate Change video
Complex Problems | Spring 2017

A PERFECT MORAL STORM: THE SCIENCE AND ETHICS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

David Storey, Philosophy, and Corinne Wong, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Course description

PHIL150101 / EESC150501

Climate change is arguably the defining issue of our time, raising an array of scientific and moral questions: How do we know the climate is changing, and what is the role of human activities? What values should guide climate policies? What responsibilities do we have toward future generations or our planet? This course introduces you to the dynamics of the climate system, the scientific basis for climate change, and its societal implications. It also explores environmental ethics and examines the moral challenges posed by climate change. Our goal is to help students appreciate the sheer complexity and moral gravity of the problem.

1 Natural Science + 1 Philosophy II

David Storey, assistant professor of the practice, faculty page Corinne Wong, assistant professor, website

Enrollment is now open! Note: This is a SPRING 2017 course with a Fall 2016 prerequisite. To register please enroll in one of the following Fall 2016 courses on UIS: PHIL150001, PHIL150002, or PHIL150003 (each meets MWF at 2 p.m.).

You will automatically be enrolled in PHIL1501 this spring, and you will be prompted to enroll in EESC1505 and a lab section at that time as well.

Play Performing Politics video
Complex Problems | Spring 2017

PERFORMING POLITICS

Luke Jorgensen, Theatre, and Jennie Purnell, Political Science

Course description

THTR150301 / POLI103101

The marginalized and oppressed have long used public and theatrical performance to give voice to human rights and social justice concerns. Students will examine a range of political plays and protest movements, asking how and why relatively powerless people use public performances to make political points—and whether theater can be both good politics and good art. Students will create their own political performances (e.g., short plays, puppet shows, videos, etc.), learning about various aspects of theater while developing a better understanding of their own political views and interests.

1 Arts + 1 Social Science

Luke Jorgensen, associate professor, faculty page Jennie Purnell, associate professor, faculty page
Play Social Problems on the Silver Screen video
Complex Problems | Spring 2017

SOCIAL PROBLEMS ON THE SILVER SCREEN

Lynn Lyerly, History, and John Michalczyk, Fine Arts

Course description

HIST150701 / FILM150101

Film, as a sociopolitical witness to a specific historical era, documents the past but also speaks poignantly to the present. In this course we will use film to explore key problems of the modern era—war, hate, and injustice—putting the movies both in historical and aesthetic contexts. Students will not only understand the artistic and historical import of the films in this class but also grapple with the difficult ethical questions they raise. This course will also promote visual literacy in an increasingly visual world.

1 History II + 1 Arts

Lynn Lyerly, associate professor, faculty page John Michalczyk, professor, faculty page
Play What is the Good Life? Tolstoy to Chekov video
Enduring Questions | Spring 2017

WHAT IS THE GOOD LIFE? TOLSTOY TO CHEKHOV

Thomas Epstein, Slavic languages and literature

GOD AND THE GOOD LIFE

Stephen Pope, Theology

Course description

SLAV116101 / THEO170201

Students will consider literary and theological ways of thinking about what constitutes “the good life,” exploring major texts in the Christian tradition (St. Ignatius of Loyola, John Calvin, and Dorothy Day) and the works of Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov, giants of 19th-century Russian literature. Key topics include the relation between virtue and human flourishing, the meaning of faith and its relation to reason, the relation of charity and justice, hope in the face of suffering, and personal and social transformation.

1 Literature + 1 Theology II

Thomas Epstein, associate professor of the practice Stephen Pope, professor, faculty page
Play Narrating Black Intimacies video
Enduring Questions | Spring 2017

NARRATING BLACK INTIMACIES

Rhonda Frederick, English/AADS

BLACK INTIMACY AND INTERSECTIONALITY IN THE US

Shawn McGuffey, Sociology

Course description

ENGL170801 / SOCY170401

These courses use the phrase “Black intimacy” to understand belonging; to know self, others, and place; to investigate “race”; to explore Whiteness as intimately linked with Blackness (and vice versa); and to show how intimate experiences shape race and gender relations. Students will examine the intersections of race and sexuality in the U.S. on both interpersonal and national levels, and explore how intimate relationships and spaces—e.g., friendships, romantic relationships, neighborhoods, and schools—both shape and are shaped by larger discourses and the material realities of race and gender. Students will examine how Black intimate experiences are distinct from yet integral to the U.S. experience.

1 Literature + 1 Social Science

Rhonda Frederick, associate professor, faculty page Shawn McGuffey, associate professor, faculty page
Play Living in the Material World video
Enduring Questions | Spring 2017

LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD

Dunwei Wang, Chemistry

LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD

Beth Kowaleski Wallace, English

Course description

CHEM170101 / ENGL170901

This class responds to the moral, spiritual, and ethical challenges that follow from the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si by exploring the complex place of the human within the material world. While one class uses a scientific approach to explore questions pertaining to actual energy consumption, the other explores the definition and history of materiality from a literary and humanistic perspective.

1 Natural Science + 1 Literature

Dunwei Wang, associate professor, faculty page Beth Kowaleski Wallace, professor, faculty page
Play Adoption and Kinship video
Enduring Questions | Spring 2017

FAMILY MATTERS: HISTORIES OF ADOPTION AND KINSHIP

Arissa Oh, History

FAMILY MATTERS: STORIES OF ADOPTION AND KINSHIP

James Smith, English

Course description

HIST170201 / ENGL171001

What makes a family? Why does kinship matter? These courses use the practice of adoption and adoption narratives to examine how empires, nations, religions, and ordinary people have understood concepts of kinship from the late 18th century to the present. Students will examine adoption as narrative (in the Bildungsroman, rags-to-riches stories, and memoirs), as image (the orphan, the unmarried mother), and as metaphor (of dependence and independence, of separation and affiliation, of origins and fresh starts). They will explore top-down efforts to regulate and restrict methods of family-making in settings and situations that range from orphan trains in the American West to international adoption today.

1 History II + 1 Literature

Arissa Oh, associate professor, faculty page James Smith, associate professor, faculty page
Play Building a Habitable Planet video
Enduring Questions | Spring 2017

BUILDING A HABITABLE PLANET—ORIGINS AND EVOLUTIONS OF THE EARTH: THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

Natana Delong-Bas, Theology

BUILDING A HABITABLE PLANET—ORIGINS AND EVOLUTIONS OF THE EARTH: GEOSCIENCE PERSPECTIVES

Ethan Baxter, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Course description

THEO170301 / EESC170101

What is the age and origin of our earth? How and when did earth become a habitable planet? How have life and the Earth itself evolved together through time? These linked courses search for answers in both science and theology. Students in these classes will be introduced to the scientific method and the tools of geology, geochemistry, and geophysics used to unlock the history of the earth from its beginnings as well as to ethics and theology (both Christian and Islamic) on the origins and evolutions of the earth and its diverse life. They will think about how our use of Earth’s resources reflects an understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.

1 Theology II + 1 Natural Science

Natana Delong-Bas, assistant professor of the practice, faculty page Ethan Baxter, associate professor, faculty page
Play Human Disease video
Enduring Questions | Spring 2017

HUMAN DISEASE: PLAGUES, PATHOGENS, AND CHRONIC DISORDERS

Kathy Dunn, Biology

HUMAN DISEASE: HEALTH, THE ECONOMY, AND SOCIETY

Sam Richardson, Economics

Course description

BIOL170201 / ECON170101

These paired courses will explore—as broadly as possible—the causes and consequences of human epidemics and disease. From a biological perspective, we will examine the cellular and physiological parameters associated with health and investigate causes of disease through the lens of pathogens, genetic predisposition, and environmental influence. From an economics perspective, we will expand our analysis to the broader social causes and consequences of disease. We will apply economic reasoning to understand why health care resources are deployed the way they are, and how we might improve the efficiency of health systems at the local, national, and global levels.

1 Natural Science + 1 Social Science

Kathy Dunn, associate professor, faculty page Sam Richardson, associate professor of the practice, faculty page