Blair’s class to triple in size

Applications are now open for Tony Blair’s “Faith and Globalization” course for the coming fall semester, but this year, more than three times as many students will get a seat in the coveted class.

The course, now in its third year, will include 60 to 80 students, up from the previous average of about 25 students. The class, which debuted in the fall of 2008 and is co-taught by Yale Divinity School professor Miroslav Volf and former British Prime Minister Blair, is part of the three-year Faith and Globalization Initiative launched by Yale and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which seeks to educate about and combat extremism within world religions. Fifteen to 20 students each will be selected from Yale College, the Divinity School, the School of Management, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences or Yale’s other professional schools.

Neil Arner, associate director of the Initiative, said that because this is the last year of Tony Blair’s three-year contract, the Initiative’s leaders thought the course — which explores issues of faith and globalization in various regions of the world — should be available to “as many students as possible.”

But some students said they think the increase in class size could lead to a loss of intimacy between the professors and students — and among the students themselves.

Hayeon Lee ’10, a double major in political science and environmental engineering who took the class last year, said she enjoyed the intimate community among the students in the seminar. The class itself, Lee said, was more like a lecture than a traditional seminars, though there were two discussion sections each week — meaning students met for a total of four hours each week.

“You’re not going to be able to talk to the professors like we did,” Lee said. “We would meet the guest lecturers, go to dinners with them, ask in-depth questions about their life and their work.” Still, she said, a larger class is better than nothing.

With 25 students, each one was on a first-name basis with the course’s professors and students alike, said another student of the seminar, Catherine Cheney ’10. (Cheney is a former multimedia editor for the News.)

While Cheney agreed that a bigger class would take away from the experience, she noted that many qualified students were previously not able to get into the class.

“I’m sure the professors realize [the difference] and will try to account for it in some way,” Cheney said.

The deadline for submitting the application for the class is Friday, April 30 at noon.

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