College: City College
Awards: Humanity in Action Diplomacy and Diversity Fellowship, 2015
Acting with Humanity
Tensions, always high between India and Pakistan - two nuclear-armed countries that have fought several wars - peaked in 2008 after Pakistan-based terrorists wreaked slaughter and destruction in Mumbai. "Cricket diplomacy" helped cool things down.
In 2011, India's prime minister invited Pakistan's president to join him at a Cricket World Cup semi-final match. Away from the pitch, India eased its visa policies in disputed Kashmir and Pakistan released an alleged spy it had held for 27 years. Relations warmed even more in 2013, when Pakistan's cricket team traveled to India and, in as close to a diplomatic ending as possible, won 2-1. When the teams met again in 2015, almost one billion people cheered around the world.
"Sports has the capacity to impact diplomatic relations in a way that nothing else can, particularly between countries that have had a contentious relationship," says Valeria Munt (Brooklyn College, B.A., political science, French and Spanish literature '08; City College, M.A., international affairs'15).
Humanity in Action, an international nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization, has awarded her a Diplomacy and Diversity Fellowship. Over four weeks in the spring of 2015, the 24 fellows - all American and European graduate students - were scheduled to meet government, business and academic leaders in Berlin and Washington, D.C. Their goal, in the organization's words, was to "consider ways of promoting constructive diplomacy in a changing world through innovative and inclusive approaches to national and international issues."
Munt's master's research into sports diplomacy made her a natural for this coveted fellowship. "Cricket," she observes, "has not solved the deeply rooted rivalry they've had since independence from Britain in 1947, but it di help them start communicating." She also delved into the "Ping-Pong diplomacy" in 1971-1972, which opened the door to President Nixon's historic visit to Cold War adversary China.
Munt learned English in her native Peru before coming to the United States - "which has so many opportunities" - and to Brooklyn College, where she completed her triple-major bachelor's degree in four years. She became a U.S. citizen in 2011 and intends to marry another CUNY alumnus, Vitali Angelyniauk (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, B.A., '15).
Munt has had several internships: with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, U.N. Women and the U.S. State Department's consulate in Barcelona.
Munt now works in community relations in the district office of state Sen. Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx, who told her about the Humanity in Action fellowship because of her interest in international relations. In 2009, when Rivera worked for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, he was one of 20 politically active young Americans to join 20 Dutch counterparts in Humanity in Action's Pioneers program, where they considered issues like technology, politics and social media. The Dutch government sponsored Pioneers to celebrate the 400th anniversary of discovery of the Hudson River.
Munt says that eventually she wants to shift into a job in international relations, "which is not only what I've studied, but also what I'm passionate about."