Complex Problems

The AU Core First-Year Seminar

Complex Problems Seminars

Complex Problems Seminars, taken in the fall or spring of your first year at American University, use real-world problems or enduring questions to cultivate your intellectual flexibility for future work at the university and beyond. Each of these small, 3-credit seminars is taught by a leading, full-time professor at AU and offers opportunities to consider a variety of perspectives and practice scholarly methods of inquiry. The seminars include unique co-curricular experiences, sending you off campus or bringing area experts to the classroom to foster connections among ideas and experiences. In each seminar, a Program Leader (a sophomore, junior, or senior student) partners with your instructor to provide academic and social support, and to encourage classroom, community, and campus engagement.

Find Your Seminar

Browse the catalog of seminar descriptions 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.

Complex problems article

Finding Their Voices Through Complex Problems

Part of AU’s new core curriculum along with American University Experience, Complex Problems facilitates difficult conversations and moves students into an inquiry-based model.

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Complex Problems Seminars

See the Schedule of Classes for more details about upcoming seminars.


Student Perspective

AU graduate Abby Kleman



“I thoroughly enjoyed the Complex Problems course because I was able to spend time with my classmates, whether we were volunteering, exploring museums, or having meaningful conversations about a topic we were all interested in.”

– Abby Kleman, Class of 2022


  1. Complex Problems - Students may enroll in any Complex Problems seminar with the course number CORE-105
  2. For Transfer Students - 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 Honors - Accepted students enroll in an Honors-designated Complex Problems section with the course number CORE-106 and the corresponding section of HNRS-150, the Experiential Learning Lab.
    2. CBRS - Accepted students enroll in a CBRS section of Complex Problems with the course number CORE-106
    3. 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