Complex Problems & Enduring Questions Courses

First year students are invited to enroll in Boston College’s innovative, team-taught Core courses: Complex Problem and Enduring Question. Each one is collaboratively taught by two faculty members from different academic departments, and each is designed to engage students in interdisciplinary explorations of topics of critical importance. These include areas such as ethics and engineering; race and violence; markets, cultures, and values; economics, law, and health policy; the value of freedom; psychological and literary perspectives of disability; and more.

Complex Problem and Enduring Question courses extend inquiry beyond the classroom to labs, reflection sessions, conversations with outside speakers, and off-campus field visits, creating an intensive shared learning experience for both teachers and students. They exemplify Boston College’s innovative approach to Core education by establishing a foundation for students’ intellectual development and preparing them to become engaged, effective world citizens.

You will have the opportunity to enroll in Complex Problem and Enduring Question courses when you register for spring courses this November. Both are worth six credits and fulfill two of the University’s Core Curriculum requirements. 

Fall 2024 Complex Problems and Enduring Questions Courses

Complex Problem Courses

Complex Problem courses are six-credit courses, team-taught by two professors from different disciplines. Students meet multiple days each week for lectures and once per week for lab. Students and faculty also gather for weekly Reflection sessions, which may involve group activities; guest speakers, or field trips off campus. Each paired Complex Problem course fulfills two Core requirements. Some may fill an additional Core requirement for Cultural Diversity, through either Difference, Justice and the Common Good (DJCG) or Engaging Difference and Justice (EDJ).

If you have any questions about these courses or how to register, e-mail

Climate Change and the Corporation: Risks,  Rewards, and Responsibilities

EESC 1704 + UNAS 1733

▶ Fulfills 1 Natural Science + 1 Social Science + Cultural Diversity

Exchange and Values: Stories and Measures of Inequality

ENGL 1738 + ECON 1503

▶ Fulfills Literature + 1 Social Science + Cultural Diverstiy

Planet in Peril: The History and Future of Human Impacts on the Planet

SOCY 1509 + HIST 1505

▶ Fulfills Literature + 1 Social Science + History II

Making the Modern World: Design, Ethics, and Engineering

ENGR 1081 + HIST 1627

▶ Fulfills 1 Natural Science + History II + Cultural Diversity

Real Estate and Urban Action: Transforming Communities and Increasing Access to Opportunity

ECON 1704 + UNAS 1725

▶ Fulfills 2 Social Science + Cultural Diversity

Enduring Question Courses

Enduring Question courses are two linked three-credit courses taught by professors from different disciplines. The same 19 students take both courses. Four times during the semester, students and faculty gather for Reflection sessions, which may involve group activities, guest speakers, or field trips off campus. Each pair of Enduring Question courses fulfills two Core requirements. Some may fulfill an additional Core requirement for Cultural Diversity through either Difference, Justice, and the Common Good (DJCG) or Engaging Difference and Justice (EDJ).

If you have any questions about these courses or how to register, e-mail

Aesthetic Exercises: Empathy, Engagement, Ethics (MUSA 1701)
Spiritual Exercises: Empathy, Engagement, Ethics (THEO 1701)

▶ Fulfills Arts + 1 Theology (Christian Theology)

A Life of Virtue: The Wisdom of the Ancient Greek Tradition (PHIL 1729)
A Life of Virtue: The Wisdom of the Judeo-Christian Tradition (THEO 1729)

▶ Fulfills 1 Philosophy + 1 Theology (Christian Theology

Why Do the Wicked Prosper?: Portraits of Good and Evil in Literature (UNAS 1728)
Why Do the Wicked Prosper?: Portraits of Good and Evil in Film (FILM 1702)

▶ Fulfills Literature + Arts

From Hiroshima to K-Pop: Historical Perspectives (UNAS 1716)
From Hiroshima to K-Pop: Filmmakers' Perspectives (UNAS 1717)

▶ Fulfills History II + Arts + Cultural Diversity

Roots and Routes: Reading Identity, Migration, and Culture (ENGL 1712)
Roots and Routes: Writing Identity, Migration, and Culture (ENGL 1713)

▶ Fulfills Literature + Writing + Cultural Diversity

Humans and Other Animals: The Mental Life of Animals (PSYC 1092)
Finding the Animal: Beasts & Boundaries in Literature (ENGL 1721)

▶ Fulfills 1 Social Science + Literature

The Self and Its Limits: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives (PHIL 1727)
The Self and Its Limits: Greco-Roman Slavery (CLAS 1706)

▶ Fulfills 1 Philosophy + Literature + Cultural Diversity

UtopianImaginings: Literary Texts (ENGL 1741)
Utopian Imaginings: Separatist Experiments (UNAS 1736)

▶ Fulfills Literature + 1 Social Science + Cultural Diversity

Reflection and Formation

Reflection is a central element of student formation at Boston College and a fundamental component of the design of Complex Problem and Enduring Question courses. In Reflection sessions, students connect the content of the course to  their lives beyond the classroom and to the larger University community. In this way, Reflection is intimately tied to the University Core Curriculum learning goal of teaching students how to “examine their values and experiences and integrate what they learn with the principles that guide their lives.” Reflection sessions provide a space for discussion of the ethical implications of material covered in the course and help students process their reactions to challenging course materials. Additionally, Reflection provides opportunities for ideas and practices associated with formative experiences at Boston College to emerge.

Course Reflection sessions may include:

  • A session on the Jesuit Examen led by Mission and Ministry
  • A workshop teaching students about different meditative practices
  • A yoga workshop
  • A workshop on reflective journaling
  • An e-media fast, where students abstain from all electronic devices and media for 24 hours
  • A lesson in practicing silence for increasingly long periods of time
  • In a course on migration, students were shown an array of timeworn objects and asked to write narratives about the journey of a chosen object. Students then shared their narratives and discussed their own experiences of migration.
  • In a course on gender, students divided into groups to create collages from magazine images illustrating the role of mass media in reinforcing or challenging traditional gender stereotypes.
  • In a course on books and media, a conservator from Burns Library led a session in which students played the role of 16th-century apprentices in a print shop and used bookbinding tools to create a vellum pamphlet.
  • In a course on climate change, students participated in a World Food Banquet to reflect on food issues around the globe.
Field Trips
  • A visit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to see an Islamic Arts exhibition
  • A trip to Mount Auburn Cemetery to consider the meaning of life and death
  • An excursion to Cape Cod beaches to observe and compare signs of sea level change on a pristine and developed coast. Afterward, students enjoyed dinner at a faculty member’s home.
  • An outing to Walden Pond to reflect on the lived experiences of Henry David Thoreau and the value of nature
Guest Speakers
  • A panel of veterans who shared their experience of war
  • A dis/abled alumnus who discussed their experiences on campus
  • A lecture by Kwame Appiah on cosmopolitanism and the legacy of empires
  • A Environmental Studies lecture series on climate change

Hands-On, Project-Based Learning

Weekly, 75-minute labs are a distinctive feature of Complex Problem courses that allow students to develop and synthesize disciplinary skills, integrating lecture material with active learning. Students collaborate in groups on hands-on projects that extend the course beyond the walls of the classroom and into the broader community.

Lab sessions in Complex Problem courses may include:

  • A partnership with the City of Boston’s Environment Department where studentsdeveloped plans for inexpensive ways that residents of various neighborhoods could reduce carbon emissions
  • A collaboration with local anti-violence organizations where students helped to develop programming for survivors
  • A podcasting project where students students researched, developed, and recorded a compelling story about climate issues
  • A mural project honoring the founders of #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo
  • A comprehensive revitalization plan for a Boston neighborhood impacted by various forms of injustice
  • An urban walk to learn more about tree equity
  • Engineering design projects focused on improved accessibility on the Boston College campus
  • Case study research and concept mapping of Marine Protected Areas around the world
  • Op-ed writing about ocean and climate change issues

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