Red Fox Spotlight: Nick Bayer ’16
As a student at Marist, Nick Bayer ’16 had outstanding faculty mentors who shared valuable advice with him, but one piece of advice really stood out. “If you see a need, fill a need” was one of the many lessons learned from Director of Choral Activities Sarah Williams, who worked closely with him during his four years at the College. Said Bayer, “Sarah taught me to ask myself, ‘Where can I best contribute?’ She modeled compassion and basic humanity, and she continues to influence me today.”
Acting on that imperative to help others, Bayer is finding his purpose at Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF (also known by its English name Doctors Without Borders), an international humanitarian organization providing critically-needed medical aid in an independent, impartial manner. Bayer has served as Public and Internal Events Associate there since June 2017, after having been an intern for five months. Central to the organization’s mission is the concept of témoignage, or bearing witness, and Bayer’s current work goes straight to that mission. As part of MSF’s communication team in New York City, he focuses on telling the stories of the world’s most vulnerable populations and how their lives have been impacted by conflict and political turmoil.
Since joining MSF last year, Bayer has been deeply involved in the “Forced From Home” campaign, a free, interactive, outdoor educational exhibition to raise public awareness about the world’s more than 68.5 million refugees and internally displaced people. The exhibition has been traveling around the United States since 2016. Visitors watch virtual reality films, participate in interactive activities, and confront the tough decisions people on the run routinely make, such as, “You can take only five personal items with you – what would you choose?”
Bayer’s innate desire to engage with the world was nurtured and strengthened during his time at the College. A talented singer, he chose Marist to participate in its strong choral program, but also for the opportunity to major in political science. As a student, he did survey research for The Marist Poll and landed a Tarver Summer Internship at the World Affairs Council of the Mid-Hudson Valley. Said Bayer, “My internship gave me a taste of what it’s like to work for a non-profit and taught me how important it is for the organization to communicate effectively to increase engagement.” His senior thesis, supervised by Associate Professor of Political Science Juris Pupcenoks, was on migration and security. “I wanted to explore the question of why people are more afraid of refugees in a boat than they are of Malala [Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for female education shot by the Taliban]. I concluded that it’s because it’s easier for people to identify with the plight of one person, rather than that of a nameless, faceless group.” This concept is at the heart of MSF’s “Forced From Home” campaign.
Marist, singing, and global engagement are all important parts of Bayer’s life. This summer, he joined a group of 30 Marist students and recent alumni from the College’s choral program for the trip of a lifetime to Austria, where they shared their musical talents in the land of Mozart, Haydn, and Schubert. The Marist Singers gave several public concerts at historic venues in Vienna, Mondsee, Hallstatt, and Eisenstadt before heading to Salzburg to participate in the World Choral Fest, the aim of which is “bringing the world together in song.” The festival culminated in a dramatic performance of both classic and new choral works inside the elegant Salzburg Cathedral, where the public treated them to a standing ovation.
Citing faculty mentors like Williams, Pupcenoks, Associate Professor of Political Science JoAnne Myers, and the late Danielle Langfield, Bayer summarizes the lessons he learned at Marist that continue to serve him well: “Grab the opportunities, set yourself up for success, work hard, keep your focus, and take the initiative.”