More than 300 Yale students, faculty and New Haven residents crowded into Betts House Thursday night to meet Yale’s World Fellows, a group of 19 young people that includes government officials, businesspeople and reporters from around the world.
The fellows — who include a spokesperson for the Commission of the European Union, the deputy CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and several political advisors — stood next to folding cardboard displays covered in pictures and diagrams related to their countries and jobs, and debated and conversed with visitors to the Fellows Night. The purpose of World Fellows Night is to give members of the Yale community, particularly undergraduates, a chance to meet the fellows, said Kel Ginsberg, associate director of the program.
“We’re looking for people who are making significant contributions in their region, in their country and in their field, that are early or mid-career and that are on a trajectory upward,” Ginsberg said.
The fellows were selected from a pool of about 600 applicants to spend the semester at Yale living and taking classes with one undergraduates, graduate students, and one another, Ginsberg said. They were selected based on their personal accomplishments — ranging from reporting work on the late ’90s conflict in Kosovo to development of information technology in Morocco — facilitating change in their home countries, she said.
In addition to taking classes in Yale College and various graduate schools, Yale World Fellows attend lectures and debate current social and political issues amongst themselves, said Garentina Kraja, a World Fellow and reporter for the Associated Press in Kosovo. Kraja, standing next to a display with maps of Albania and the cover from a Time magazine with an article about Kosovo, said the debates with other fellows are one of her favorite parts of the program.
“You get to sit in a room with people from different backgrounds and all corners of the world who bring in different perspectives … and debate some of the most pressing issues today,” she said.
Oyungerel Tsedevdamba is a fellow from Mongolia who has helped spearhead the country’s anti-corruption efforts during and after her tenure as adviser to the former Mongolian prime minister. As she stood next to a board covered in snapshots of Mongolia, she said she is grateful for the opportunity to learn more about her field. She said she is taking classes in anti-corruption law and looks forward to sharing her work against corruption in her country.
“I’m meeting incredible people here,” she said. “I can’t count how many people I’ve already met. All of these people are really competent.”
Fellows are meant to be a part of the Yale community, and World Fellows Night is the first occasion for Yalies to interact with the fellows in a one-on-one setting, Ginsberg said.
Stefaan de Rynck, an EU spokesperson from Belgium, said he was enjoying World Fellows Night because he liked being able to answer questions from Yale students.
“The questions are all very good,” he said. “They go to the essential questions you should ask … about the EU.”
Students also said they appreciated the opportunity to interact with the fellows.
Marianna Schuck ’09 said World Fellows night was a good way to meet influential people from around the world.
“I’ve made contacts with fellows I’d like to get to know better,” she said.
But Amanda Eckerson ’07 said the fellows program could be improved by holding more frequent gatherings to give students greater access to the fellows.
“I wish there were more events for us to interact with them,” she said.
The fellows will participate in a weekly lecture series starting next Thursday on subjects including stereotyping of the Arab world and sustainable trade policies.