University President Richard Levin on Thursday will announce the names of this year’s Yale World Fellows, who will participate in the annual four-month program which aims to promote international dialogue by developing a worldwide network of emerging leaders.

The 18 fellows, selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 applications, are distinguished early- to mid-career professionals from governments, businesses, the media and civil-society organizations across the globe. This year’s group of fellows — comprising individuals from various countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe — include such notables as the founding secretary general of Nicaragua’s Ministry of Defense, a Pakistani journalist reporting from the frontline of the war on terror and a Chinese public-interest lawyer.

“I am delighted to welcome this extraordinary group of men and women to the Yale community,” Levin said in a statement slated to be released to the Yale community today. “Yale will benefit greatly from their presence on campus, and we anticipate that the Fellows will gain new perspectives on their own roles as future leaders.”

From August to September, the fellows will spend 17 weeks in New Haven attending a seminar course taught by some of Yale’s most eminent faculty, auditing any of the 3,000 courses offered at the University, participating in weekly dinners with guest lecturers and meeting with U.S. and foreign leaders. The fellows will also host conversations once a week with various student groups on campus.

Leslie Powell, director of outreach and external affairs for the Yale World Fellows program, said the program, established in 2002, furthers Levin’s goal — announced at the University’s tercentennial celebrations — to further connect Yale with the rest of the world. The success of the program — which was designed to provide advanced leadership training for the fellows, link the emerging leaders in a self-sustaining network and expand their knowledge of world affairs — surpasses initial expectations, Powell said.

“From a pilot project, the program has evolved into one of the signature globalization efforts undertaken by the University in the past several years,” she said.

For former World Fellow Garentina Kraja ’11, the allure of spending four months at Yale motivated her to apply for the program in 2006. A self-trained journalist, Kraja covered the conflict in Kosovo until the violence there eventually forced her to flee to Macedonia, where she continued reporting as a refugee. Although she found her life as a journalist rewarding, Kraja said she also regretted not receiving a proper education as a result of the war.

As a fellow, Kraja said, the discourse among her colleagues allowed her to place her experiences within an international framework. In 2006, Kraja’s colleagues included a former minister of finance for Costa Rica and the deputy CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Gidon Bromberg, founder and director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, an environmental organization in Israel, and a 2007 World Fellow, considers the friendships he developed at Yale to be one of the greatest assets of the program.

“I found that the Yale faculty and students were very open and in most cases eager to take advantage of the organizational capacity of FoEME in the Middle East,” he wrote in an e-mail. “[I] was busy planning events with them once I returned [to Israel].”

The School of Architecture announced Tuesday that Yale faculty and students will join with FoEME to create the first cross-border peace park in the Middle East over a segment of the Jordan River.

Kraja, on the other hand, has yet to return to journalism in Kosovo, although she plans to do so in the near future. Instead, Kraja, now in her late 20s, chose to pursue — at least temporarily — a goal more familiar to many Elis: a Yale degree in political science.