Maria Corina Machado is currently challenging Hugo Chavez for the Venezuelan presidency, but she still made time to help the Yale World Fellows Program celebrate its 10th anniversary this weekend.

The program hosted a series of workshops and a panel discussion at the Yale Law School that delved into topics such as political campaign strategies and global politics. Machado, along with other world leaders such as former governor of Vermont Howard Dean ’71 and former Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio, spoke at the day’s events.

“[The World Fellows] program awoke in all of us the capacity to build on our differences, bond amongst each other and also bond to Yale,” Machado told the News, adding that prior to her Fellows experience she had never been a part of such an “intellectually stimulating group.”

University President Richard Levin began the World Fellows Program in 2002, offering between 14 and 18 global leaders each year the opportunity to further their respective causes by using available Yale University resources. The fellows represent various fields — from innovators to intellectuals — and unite to build on skills of global leadership.

Machado said that she first learned about the program from a Yale alumnus in Venezuela. The program has helped her to gain confidence in her ability to lead and inspire others, she said. In fact, she added, the program spurred her to enter politics.

“The Yale World Fellows Program was a time of immense reflection and decision-making for me. Being at Yale made me realize what I truly wanted — to enter public service — because I had the chance to analyze my country from a different perspective,” Machado said.

On Sunday, Machado and Dean led a two-hour workshop for about 35 graduate students and adults on how to run a successful political campaign.

After the workshop, five fellows from countries ranging from Turkey to Brazil participated in a panel discussion centered on the ethics of international diplomacy. The fellows debated responsibilities of government leadership in the context of a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected. They ultimately agreed on one point: that leaders should stay firm in their beliefs. Machado said the World Fellows Program has helped her to realize the importance of standing by her positions even if they are unpopular.

“Only if you absolutely believe in the values and vision you work for, and if you are willing to take risks and follow your heart even when the mainstream is opposing you, you can become a true leader and a source of inspiration for those around you,” she said.

The discussion panel was followed by a celebratory fellows dinner in the Yale Law School dining hall.