The World Fellows Program plans to improve its already existing initiatives with a recently awarded $5 million grant.

After months of discussions between The Starr Foundation of New York City and Yale, University officials announced Monday that the foundation has chosen the World Fellows program as a grant recipient. The grant, which will be paid out over three years, will go to furthering the program’s three-part mission of training global leaders, building personal networks and promoting international awareness on campus, World Fellows Director Daniel Esty said.

Each year the program attracts 16 to 18 distinguished men and women from around the world to Yale for a leadership program.

“We try to broaden and deepen the program, and this funding allows us to do more of that and make the World Fellows Program a centerpiece of [University] President [Richard] Levin’s efforts to globalize Yale,” Esty said.

Levin said he appreciated The Starr Foundation’s contribution, which he said was “very generous.” Levin said the grant will only improve the already thriving program.

“We’re very grateful to them for showing their confidence in what I think has been a tremendously successful program,” Levin said.

The grant reflects the foundation’s belief in the importance of higher education and global relationships, Starr Foundation President Florence Davis said. She said the exchange of ideas among emerging leaders from different countries will be even more critical in the future.

“Mr. Starr — was quite passionate about scholarships for higher education and international relations, and the World Fellows program fits really nicely into that,” Davis said. “We’ve tried very hard to fund programs that encourage better relations between America and the rest of the world. The goal is the spread of democratic values and cooperation among nations.”

World Fellows Associate Director Ellen Ginsberg said the program will use the money primarily to support existing initiatives such as a speaker series, lecture series and seminar series.

“The money will be used strictly for programmatic activities and World Fellows initiatives,” Ginsberg said. “What this will give us is the freedom to — expand and enhance the programmatic activities that have already been initiated.”

World Fellow Aboubakr Jamai said he was pleased with the current program and did not think any major changes were necessary. Instead, Jamai said he thought it would be interesting to use the grant money to expand the program to accept a new group of fellows for spring semester or to increase the number of fellows. Under the current program, fellows are only on campus during the fall semester.

Ginsberg said the program is still in its beginning stages and is still evolving.

“We’re open to creative ideas, obviously in terms of programmatic activities, and we’re constantly reevaluating what we do.” Ginsberg said. “This is only our third class, so we consider ourselves in the creative mode.”

The Starr Foundation also donated $5 million to Yale in 1991 for the renovation of the Starr Reference Room in Sterling Memorial Library.