Artboard 1 apply Artboard 1 copy 2 Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB give Artboard 1 copy 3 info link Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB Artboard 1 Artboard 2 Artboard 1 visit

Nathaniel Bald, C’21, Wins First Fulbright English Teaching Award to Madagascar

Nicole Patterson

Nathaniel Bald Fulbright feature

Three days after graduating magna cum laude, Nathaniel Bald, C’21, was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award to Madagascar, the program’s brand-new location. Bald majored in economics, French and German and is the first Mountie to ever win an ETA grant to highly competitive Sub-Saharan Africa.

“I am filled with excitement, nervousness and gratitude,” said the honor student and fellow. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m just so grateful that the Fulbright selection committee believes that I will be a good fit for this new program.”  

The Fulbright Program, established 75 years ago, is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program and is supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world—and 2021 marks the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program.  

Bald celebrated his own personal and academic milestones throughout his time at the Mount. He received the Reverend John B. Holley Memorial Prize that recognizes a student of the senior class who has earned distinction in service to the Church and community. He also completed a Semester of Service with Associate Professor of Sociology Layton Field, Ph.D., where Bald researched poverty and how universities like the Mount can use their unique talent to serve local and global communities. 

“Nathaniel is a student of humanity. As such, he thrives in situations that place him in unfamiliar circumstances where he can explore the human condition through fellowship and solidarity,” said Field. “Nathaniel’s academic accomplishments places him among the elite. Yet, I am mostly inspired by his level of maturity and selfless service to every person he encounters.”

Bald says that during his Semester of Service he began to recognize his talents and how to best use them. He continued to grow by seeking out criticism, working on patience and becoming adaptable. He focused on nurturing personal relationships. Bald says his work with Field shaped how he viewed his economic research and helped him understand how to use it to serve others and make the world a better place.  

Bald had many options for colleges, but he credits coming to the Mount to Chair and Professor of World Languages and Cultures Marco Roman, Ph.D., and the Mount’s Catholic identity. “When I came for the honors competition, I was the only student who attended the session for foreign languages,” he explained. “Dr. Roman and I talked for nearly an hour just the two of us. That’s when I realized that I could really see myself here working with him for four years and other professors like him.” Bald will be able to use his French thanks to Roman’s course Building Castles in Sand: Tahiti and Other French-speaking Islands.  

“He has done amazing work as a French major—stellar and insightful in classes, curious and self-motivated in his independent research projects,” Roman commented. Bald was an officer of the French club and a French tutor. He ran prayer meetings in French and acted as a guide to French-speaking visitors on campus. “Even during COVID-19 the past academic year and a half, he had amazing virtual attendance at club events and was able to reach and engage club members as if they were fully interacting,” Roman added. “He always remembers the human person no matter the limitations present.”  

Bald says his studies in French are what made him fall in love with the idea of going to experience the people, cultures and societies he was studying at an economic level.  And it was those studies in economic development that got him interested in Sub-Saharan Africa. As part of his Senior Honors Project, supervised by Associate Professor of Economics John Larrivee, Ph.D., Bald wrote a piece titled The University and Civil Society: Renewal of the Human Person which emphasizes the importance of Catholic Social Teaching, the Catholic intellectual tradition and how “the Catholic view of the human person recognizes that we are free, rational, and moral agents who live with meaning, purpose, and direction. We are intentional beings who think, feel, and act by our own accord. This and only this vision of the human person truly accommodates what it truly means to be human.”

In his paper, Bald echoed Larrivee’s question “Why does my service matter?” and cited political journalist Timothy Carney’s book Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse. Last year Carney presented a lecture at the Richard J. Bolte, Sr. School of Business’s BB&T Center for the Study of the Moral Foundations of Capitalism on how faith-based universities can help heal alienated America.  

As Bald addressed his graduating Class of 2021, those themes of truth, faith and service reemerged and found a home and a purpose. His training was complete. The distinguished student speaker made these remarks:  

“To live significantly, therefore, is to live in these moments attentively and intentionally, paying attention to everyone we meet and fostering relationships with others in the little, nearly unperceivable interactions with one another. You will never know how much of an impact you will have on someone’s life. Touching just one person is to live significantly, not in the extraordinary things, which I am sure many of us will do, but in the ordinary things and to do them extraordinarily well. Strive to live a life that is dedicated wholeheartedly to the service of others. And don’t forget that to receive love is just as difficult as giving love. Live a life of gratitude and humility. Find happiness in the ordinary, not the extravagant.”  

As he shared the moment with his peers and their families and offered life lessons from his collegiate experiences, Bald drew from a deeper source. “I thank my family and all my friends and peers who have stuck through it with me. I thank Jesus Christ for being my God and my rock, the literal foundation for all I do in my life.” Within his speech he mentioned a snip of a Bible verse in Proverbs about how a man plans his path, but the Lord directs his steps. “God makes straight through crooked paths,” Bald said. “I am grateful for my crooked paths and destination to which they have brought me.”  

While Bald awaited news about his Fulbright, he had also planned another path—just in case—and applied to the University of Hamburg, Germany, for a master’s program in economics with a specialization in behavioral economics and economic development. He patiently waited as COVID-19 canceled two study abroad trips, one to France for the summer and another to Vienna for a semester abroad at an internship—although it worked out. He had a virtual internship with the Austrian Economics Center and got to study Quebec and learn more about his family heritage.  

As a Fulbright participant, Bald will teach English, share knowledge and foster meaningful connections across communities in the United States and Madagascar starting in late August or early September. He will be teaching students about American culture in a high school in Antananarivo, the capital. He will also be a teacher’s assistant in the classroom and work to organize other activities outside the classroom where students can practice their English. Bald hopes to discern his next steps while in Madagascar. “Over the past several months I’ve been praying and thinking about pursuing religious life with a religious community. So, I want to use the time I have in Madagascar to really connect with others, myself and God and to really dig into what my vocation and life’s mission will be.” Bald had originally applied to be an ETA in Rwanda, but he was offered an award to Madagascar as part of the new ETA program.

“Nate is an impressive young man, and it has been a privilege to watch him grow in faith these past four years,” said Assistant Director of Campus Ministry and Social Justice Brendan Johnson. “I can’t think of anyone better to trail blaze in Madagascar to help Fulbright expand their programs.”

No doubt wherever his feet take him, he’ll see, serve and love others as children of God, made in the image and likeness of Christ, and look beyond their material conditions—speaking truth, through faith, directly to their hearts.

Bald is grateful to Field, Roman and Johnson for writing recommendation letters and the Office of Competitive Fellowships, especially Professor Christine Blackshaw, Ph.D. and Associate Professor Jamie Gianoutsos, Ph.D. He also thanks iLEAD Director Dana Sauers for being his first mentor at the Mount and Professor Susann Samples, Ph.D., for her encouragement on every step of his German journey. Additionally, he thanks Coach Chris Fitzsimons and the cross country team for “giving me another band of running brothers.” Bald ran for the team in his sophomore and junior years.

Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 400,000 participants from more than 160 countries the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright program is an annual appropriation by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support.  

Nicole Patterson