Complex Problems & Enduring Questions

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. 

Spring 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

Faith, Ethics, and the Sciences in the 21st Century

THEO1723 + PHIL1723

▶ Fulfills 1 Theology (Christian Theology) + 1 Philosophy

Understanding and Protecting Our Oceans in the Wake of Global Change

BIOL1706 + ENVS1705

▶ Fulfills 2 Natural Science + 1 Cultural Diversity Through EDJ

Enduring Question Courses

Enduring Question courses are two linked three-credit courses taught by professors from different disciplines. The same 19 students take both classes. 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 Questions courses 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

Constructing Deviance: Madmen, Hysterics, and Criminals (GERM1701)
Constructing Deviance: Power, Control, Resistance (SOCY1710)

▶ Fulfills 1 Literature + 1 Cultural Diversity through EDJ + 1 Social Science

Global Health Inequities and Disparities (UNAS1732)

▶ Fulfills 1 Social Science + 1 Cultural Diversity through EDJ

Life, Liberty, and Health: The Economics of Healthcare (ECON1702)
Life, Liberty, and Health: Policy, Politics, and Law (UNAS1702)

▶ Fulfills 1 Social Science + 1 History II + Cultural Diversity through EDJ

Love, Gender, and Marriage: Writing & Rewriting the Tradition (ENGL1704)
Love, Gender, and Marriage: The Western Literary Tradition (RLRL1701)

▶ Fulfills 1 Writing + 1 Literature

Making American Landscapes: Building and Living in Asian America (HIST1730)
Making American Landscapes: Geographies of Race, Place, and Power (ENVS1703)

▶ Fulfills 1 History II + 1 Social Science

The Making of the Modern Mind: Morality (POLI1034)
The Making of the Modern Mind: Mathematics (MATH1702)

▶ Fulfills 1 Social Science + 1 Math

Revolutionary Media: How Books Changed History (HIST1705)

Revolutionary Media: How Reading Changed Us (ENGL1715)

▶ Fulfills 1 History I + 1 Literature

Reading In/Justice: Literature as Activism from Abolition to #BlackLivesMatter (ENGL1718)
Writing In/Justice: The Power of Response (ENGL1719)

▶ Fulfills 1 Writing + 1 Literature + 1 Cultural Diversity through DJCG

Reflection and Formation

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

Faculty and student creativity flourish in Reflection sessions. Here are some examples of past Reflection activities:


  • A session on the Jesuit Examen led by someone from Mission and Ministry
  • A workshop teaching students about different meditative practices
  • A yoga workshop
  • A workshop on reflective journaling
  • An e-media fast, students abstain from all electronic devices and media for 24 hours
  • Students practiced silence for increasingly long periods of time


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Course on books and media, 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.
  • Course on climate change, student participation in a World Food Banquet to reflect on world food issues.

Field trips:

  • Museum of Fine Arts to visit the new Islamic Arts exhibition to study maps
  • Mount Auburn Cemetery to consider the meaning of life and death
  • Cape Cod beaches to observe and compare signs of sea level change on a pristine and developed coast. Dinner at a faculty member’s home
  • Walden Pond to reflect on the live experiences of Henry David Thoreau

Guest Speakers:

  • BC Career Center speaker discussing career opportunities related to the course
  • Panel of veterans discussing the experience of war
  • Kwame Appiah lecturing on cosmopolitanism and the legacy of empires
  • Students attended talks in the Environmental Studies lecture series on climate change

PODs (Purposeful Ongoing Discussion) in Complex Problem courses only

  • Reflection model that involves selecting upperclassmen as POD leaders who meet with students in small groups to discuss adjusting to life at BC and to reflect on course material. The POD mentors are trained and closely mentored by course instructors.