With the search for a new director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies in full swing, professors are speculating about Yale President Richard Levin’s short list of candidates and citing a handful of internationally focused Yale professors as top prospects.

Many professors said leading candidates to replace retiring YCIAS Director Gustav Ranis could include former Mexican President and Yale Center for the Study of Globalization Director Ernesto Zedillo and Yale World Fellows Director Daniel Esty. International Affairs Council Chairman and history professor John Gaddis, who professors also said would be a top candidate for the post, said Wednesday that he is not interested in the position.

In contrast to the 11-member search committee charged with recommending a new Yale College dean, Levin is conducting the YCIAS search single-handedly. Some professors said Levin, who is currently reviewing top candidates, is likely to name a successor within weeks.

Several professors said there is a strong likelihood that Zedillo could succeed Ranis and merge YCIAS — the University’s premier institution for international teaching and research — and the Globalization Center.

“Someone like Zedillo would be obvious,” European Union Studies Director and political science professor David Cameron said. “At some point, sooner or later, [YCIAS and the Globalization Center] will have to be integrated. It doesn’t make sense to keep them separated.”

Zedillo, who was tapped to head the Globalization Center in 2002, is trained as an economist and would bring a high profile to YCIAS, professors said.

Professors also said Esty would be a strong candidate because of his interdisciplinary experience. Esty, an environmental law professor, has appointments at both the Law School and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

“There’s certainly Professor Dan Esty,” one International Security Studies professor said. “He has a lot of experience in administration [and] he’s run the World Fellows Program very successfully. He has been talked about as a very viable candidate. Because he’s a younger professor, he has quite a bit of energy and drive.”

Yale diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill said Esty is the only candidate besides Gaddis whom he has heard his colleagues discuss. Hill said Esty has been mentioned “several times” as the top candidate.

While many professors said Zedillo and Esty are the leading candidates, some professors said other candidates could include Economic Growth Center Director Christopher Udry, United Nations Studies Director Bruce Russett, Latin American Studies Council Chairman Gilbert Joseph, Genocide Studies Director Benedict Kiernan, Agrarian Studies Director James Scott, and history professors Jonathan Spence and Jay Winter.

“There are a number of distinguished scholars who might be put into the short list — in the hopper,” history professor Paul Kennedy said. “They would range from Professor Jim Scott, to Jonathan Spence, to Ben Kiernan.”

Levin said in an e-mail Wednesday that his short list is composed of candidates nominated by faculty members who have either met with him or responded to his letter requesting their input.

Cameron said he thinks Levin’s short list is extremely selective.

“[Levin’s list is] a good group of names, but it’s a short group of names,” Cameron said. “It’s a tough job. It’s a job where the director is, to use a couple of cliches, herding cats and pushing strings.”

Many professors said Gaddis is a “natural” candidate for the position, but may too dedicated to teaching to head YCIAS.

“[Gaddis] has so much on his plate,” said Kennedy, who works closely with Gaddis in the International Security Studies program. “Even he would suffer imperial overstretch if he took it up.”

Cameron said Winter’s “tremendous amount of energy” makes him a “terrific” candidate for the position. Cameron also said Joseph’s experience fundraising for the Latin American Studies Council makes him “someone probably under consideration.”

Comparative literature professor Michael Holquist said he thinks Spence, as a Chinese historian, would be a strong candidate because Spence would be a symbol of Yale’s growing commitment to China. Another professor said he has “no doubt that [Spence] would be very good” as YCIAS director.

Ranis, who began his career as an international economist at Yale in 1960, has served as YCIAS director since 1996.