Wicked Problems


Ever considered designing or building a tiny house? How about investing a few hours a week to work with elementary students at a local school?  If opportunities like this sound appealing, then the Wicked
Problems LLC is the place to be.

Complex issues don’t have simple solutions. In the Wicked Problems LLC, you’ll engage in active, hands-on experiences that relate to complex social issues like housing, transportation and education both locally and globally. Be the architect of your own learning in the Wicked Problems LLC!

So what is a Wicked Problem?

First described in the 1960's by design theorist Horst Rittel and later refined by other social planners, Wicked Problems are defined as complex social issues that have no clear solution. They are often interconnected. For example, quality healthcare should be a given for all but those with few resources may not have the same access. Spending a meagre paycheck to feed a family may take precedence over a doctor co-pay or insurance premium, which is related. A problem whose solution requires a great number of people to change their mindsets and behavior is likely to be a wicked problem.

Examples are typically related to the environment (Climate change, sustainability, Pandemics), economics (Poverty, food security, social inequity), and politics (global strife, nuclear weapon stockpiles, social injustice, globalization) but are not inclusive to these issues.


Science and mathematics majors will have additional programming support as part of the Wicked Problems LLC.  See the general LLC web page for more details.

Just the Facts
Location: 1st-2nd floors South, Teresa Hall
Capacity: Up to 98 students
Founded: 2015
Fall Courses:

FSTY 1121 - Wicked Problems LLC Seminar (For All Wicked Problems LLC Students) Dr. Steven Fletcher
This one-hour seminar will bridge the gap between the linked courses of the LLC and the connection with the City of Austin as a case study of a wicked problem. Students will chose and explore one of five wicked problems in Austin and complete independent work related to that study that includes examining the issue carefully, exploring the complexity, and finding opportunity or solutions through action. In addition, guest speakers from across the region will present weekly seminars on local wicked problems.

Linked Wicked Problems LLC Courses (Wicked Problems LLC Students Choose One Class from the List Below in the Fall).

FSTY 1321 - Invention and Innovation: Making Good in the 21st Century Dr. Steven Fletcher
How does the act of invention and innovation impact us? What are the social and ethical implications of creating / making? How does design shape us? Who wins and who loses when a new invention changes the world? Students will explore the historical context of invention and making and will actively engage in their own maker project that has some element of social/environmental justice in mind.

FSTY 1321 - Listen, Learn and Positively Communicate Dr. Teri Varner
Listening is an important part of the communication process, yet there is a tremendous lack of skill and training in this area.  This course provides a comprehensive approach to listening strategies and depending upon the context teaches students different ways to listen in the 21st century.  Students will learn to improve their listening skills through exposure to a wide range of listening materials, such as instructional videos, taped conversations, practice application activities and through continuous self-monitoring.  Students should expect to demonstrate a higher level of listening competency inside the classroom, in personal and social situations and larger communities. Students will gain exposure and basic training using NVivo qualitative data analysis software.  Students will identify wicked problems in Austin, Texas so that they can learn what the major problems are by actively listening as they interview people and communicate possible solutions.

FSTY 1321 - The Problem With Photography Bill Kennedy
Photography is a tool for investigation, documentation, and creative expression. Is it an art form? Can photography lay claim to the same aesthetic high ground as painting, sculpture, and classical music? Are photographs accurate and reliable? Are they worth a thousand words? Is a photograph honest? Can a photograph lie? Students in this LLC section will examine the cultural role of photography through lectures, field trips, class discussions, and shooting assignments. No prior experience is required and all assignments can be shot using camera phones.

FSTY 1321 - Citizenship and Social Justice Dr. Jennifer Greene
What is the connection between wicked problems and our political, socio-economic, and cultural institutions and practices?  What can citizens do to change them?  We begin with an open-minded, careful, and fair analysis of a range of wicked problems, then seek ways that optimistic and imaginative citizens can make real progress in bringing about a more just 
and vibrant society.

FSTY 1321 - Taming Wicked Problems Through Effective Communication, Dr. Catherine MacDermott
How do we best address wicked problems in a diverse democracy? What kind of communication processes help to address these problems more effectively? This course will look at communication tactics that will enable you to become effective in your efforts to change the conversations about addressing community problems.  We will discuss strategies for convening, planning, and facilitating constructive conversations centered on wicked problems impacting Austin. By the end of the course you will have learned communication strategies that will foster collaborative dialogue, active engagement, and constructive possibilities for action.

What is expected of you as a member of the Wicked Problems community?

  • Live with community members in Teresa Hall.
  • Take each of the linked courses in the fall and spring semesters of your freshman year.
  • Participate in hands-on learning

Interested in applying?
Make sure you select the LLC bed you want while filling out the online housing application. Wicked Problems LLC beds are located in Teresa Hall in Room 105-219 South. Wicked Problems STEM majors should select a room between 201-214.