Grand strategists and future Peace Corps members alike had a chance to rub elbows with 18 of the world’s up-and-coming leaders last week during an evening of ethnic food, dancing and panel discussions on current global issues.

Yale’s first World Fellows Night took place last Thursday at Betts House on Prospect Street, the headquarters of the recently initiated Yale World Fellows Program. The organizers of the event estimated that it drew about 400 students and faculty members.

For the first hour of the evening, Yale students and faculty mingled with the World Fellows, an assortment of promising leaders in business, government, military and intergovernmental organizations. During this time, a variety of international cuisine was served, with dishes from countries such as India and Nigeria. The fellows then held three simultaneous panel discussions: “The Future of the European Union,” “Democracy and Human Rights” and “The Economics of Globalization.” Each fellow gave a brief presentation on how the topic of discussion affected his or her particular region, after which the panels answered audience questions. Also on display throughout the evening were exhibits of each fellow’s country and area of expertise. The evening ended with more time for the fellows to get to know the Yale community while dancing to an assortment of international music.

“Tonight is really about getting a cross section of the Yale community up here to Betts House so they can meet the fellows one-to-one and see what the World Fellows Program is all about,” Ben Lumpkin ’96, the program’s outreach coordinator, said.

Since its inception three years ago, the World Fellows Program has brought 16 to 18 emerging world leaders to Yale each year for a 15-week program of study, according to the program’s web site. During this time, the fellows can both broaden and deepen their educations through individual programs of study that they design themselves. The fellows attend Yale courses as well as pursue independent research.

The Web site says that in addition to helping these leaders develop the skills needed to face the problems of a rapidly changing world, Yale hopes to build a network of people comfortable with and experienced in international cooperation. Yale students stand to benefit from such a network. Daniel Esty, the program’s director and professor of law and environmental policy, said four Yale students held internships last summer with past fellow Chetna Gala Sinha at the Microenterprise Development Bank in India.

“We see the fellows providing a window on the world and a way to ensure that every Yale student appreciates the complexity and diversity of the nations and people of the world,” Esty said in an e-mail.

The program’s leaders have recently sought to encourage more interaction between the fellows and Yale students, Esty said. Each fellow is now affiliated with a residential college — where he or she can eat meals — and assigned a student host to show him or her around the campus and city. The program tries to immerse the fellows in the many aspects of life at Yale. Brian Kagora, a lawyer from Zimbabwe who tackles issues of human rights, said he enjoys playing soccer with students of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and taking salsa lessons in addition to his studies.

Students are also encouraged to take advantage of the fellows as academic resources. The fellows speak at Master’s Teas, seminars and other forums. Also, on Fridays from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., Betts House hosts Hot Coffee, Hot Issues, a program where students, faculty and fellows listen to a presentation on a current issue given by various Yale associates. After the presentation, the fellows and audience members are invited to discuss the issues, which in the past have included “What is the war on terror and are we winning?” and “The Global Corporate Governance Crisis.”

Both the fellows and the program’s leaders were pleased with World Fellows Night.

“The nature of this program and the level of expertise and organization is phenomenal,” Kagora said.

Lumpkin called the event a “huge success.”

“We were ecstatic to see such a huge turnout, and we look forward to having World Fellows Night occupy a central place on Yale’s fall social calendar for a long time to come,” he said in an e-mail.