As the first batch of World Fellows arrived on campus three weeks ago, Yale inaugurated what may possibly evolve into its own version of the prestigious Rhodes scholarship program.

Charged with building a global network of future leaders, the World Fellows Program has attracted 17 professionals from around the world for a rigorous semester of learning. This inaugural class represents a diverse set of countries — from Ecuador to Pakistan — and includes journalists, businessmen, doctors and activists.

In addition to taking classes in Yale College, the Graduate School and the professional schools, the fellows are participating in a global issues seminar. The class features a number of prominent faculty members, including former Mexican president and Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization Ernesto Zedillo GRD ’81, law school professor Harold Koh and history professor John Gaddis.

The program, which will soon be joined by the globalization center in the Betts House, also sponsors weekly luncheons where fellows give presentations on their particular areas of interest.

“The fellows are an extraordinary group of very interesting emerging leaders from all over the world,” law professor and Program Director Daniel Esty said. “We hope to give them the opportunity to acquire the range of tools they’ll need to become world leaders.”

This year’s class of 17 fellows was selected from among a pool of more than 500 applicants. Esty said he has already received more than 100 applications for next year’s program.

Gaddis said the World Fellows Program’s basic ideas of bringing future leaders to one place and building a global network closely resemble the philosophy behind Oxford University’s Rhodes scholarship program.

“The intent is to try to build something that’s analogous to the Rhodes,” Gaddis said. “Whether World Fellows will evolve into something as prestigious and influential remains to be seen.”

Beatriz Boza GRD ’88, a Peruvian attorney and the only alumna in the program, said she decided to return to Yale because this program signaled exciting prospects for the University.

“The fact that Yale was doing this meant a lot to me,” Boza said. “This seemed to be a significant effort by the University to say ‘We’re a global university and we want to have a global reach.'”

Boza added that the University’s leadership and commitment in coming years will be critical in determining the program’s future as well as Yale’s future as an institution. The target of the program should be to create a broader, world wide network that will attract more world leaders to Yale and make the University a platform for debate on world issues, Boza said.

Adamu Musa, a journalist from Cameroon, said he is confident that after the program he will be better armed to argue that “it’s only democracy that can get [Africa] out of destitution.” Musa currently runs a radio show and a television show about politics in Cameroon.

“I happen to have a certain following as a journalist at home,” Musa said. “And I think after coming here and meeting people from different parts of the world and sharing experiences, people will listen to me more.”

While the fellows are benefiting greatly from this program, Boza said the University could take advantage of the talented fellows more by having them give talks or lead discussions around campus.

“The World Fellows Program is not a program for just 17 people,” Boza said. “It’s for Yale to have a more global understanding of culture and politics. The University should be more aggressive in tapping the resources they’ve brought in, and I’m sure all of us would do it with lots of eagerness.”