Gabe Bullard, BA ’07, and Linda Golden, BA ’06, are a modern-day Renaissance couple. He’s made a living telling stories and recently spent a year studying at Harvard. She speaks three languages and volunteered with the Peace Corps. Both have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. “I’ve always wanted to know everything, learn all the languages, and visit all the countries,” Golden says. “I think journalists are naturally curious, and we both find and share our discoveries with each other.”
The couple met as undergraduates at Webster, where he majored in broadcast journalism with minors in political science and video production and she majored in photography and French with a minor in journalism. Bullard was interactive editor for The Ampersand student-produced magazine, a member of student government, and interned at St. Louis Public Radio and the “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” show. Golden was on the cross-country team, received the Richard Meyers Capstone Award for Leadership and the Five Star Award for community contributions and academic achievement, and interned with the World Council of Churches in Geneva. They began dating in 2005.
After graduation, Golden recruited volunteers to help rebuild New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Then she spent 27 months as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo in West Africa, where she educated residents on health topics like child nutrition and birth control. “It built my confidence and has helped me push myself to try new things,” she says. “Whenever I doubt myself, I remember I biked the length of a country, ran a marathon in Ghana, and got up in front of a school full of teenagers and talked to them about sex ed in French.”
While his girlfriend was on another continent, Bullard looked for a job that integrated journalism and politics. His first stop after college was working part-time as a producer at KMOX-AM radio in St. Louis and writing for a blog run by St. Louis Alderman Antonio French. Within a year, he moved to Louisville Public Media, where he covered city and state politics. “I liked chasing down stories every day,” he says. “In my journalism classes at Webster, I’d gripe about having to do two stories a week. Having to do one or more every day was a big change, but I loved it.”
After three years of a long-distance relationship, Golden was finally able to join Bullard in Louisville. She worked remotely for Airbnb training customer service agents while he climbed the ranks to station manager. The couple married in 2012. As their lives reached the sort of peaceful plateau to which many couples aspire, Golden and Bullard grew antsy. “I had ideas for bigger projects and concepts I wanted to explore,” he says. In what others might see as a risky move, 28-year-old Bullard took a year off work for a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard. He was one of just 24 accepted from a large pool of applicants worldwide.
During their “fairytale year” at Harvard, the couple audited a variety of courses (spouses are afforded many of the same benefits as fellows). He attended classes in The History of Blackface Minstrelsy, Land Use and Environmental Law, and Landscape Architecture, while she sat in on Case Studies in Global Health, Race and Community in the Digital World, and Fiction Writing. “The beauty of that year was getting to learn things that you may not have time for day to day,” Golden says. Bullard also attended weekly skills-building seminars and workshops led by leaders in the arts and sciences. “I came out of it with a completely different approach to journalism and a new confidence in what I was capable of as a writer, reporter and editor,” he says.
The fellowship cemented Bullard’s desire to tell meaningful stories for a news outlet with a wide reach, so he joined National Geographic last June as senior producer for the online edition. “I had always admired the magazine,” he says. “My parents subscribed and would hand me an issue when they were done with it. Their reporting is unexpected and really important. I’m interested in work that encourages people to think more about the world around them.”
The couple moved to Washington, D.C., in June, and Golden accepted a position in the operations department at American University’s library, where she oversees the print center, information desk and graduate research center. “One of the things I’m considering is going back to school for a master’s degree in library science,” she says. “I still don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up.” Golden may turn her angst over her career path into a podcast that would explore others’ varied career trajectories.
In their free time, Bullard and Golden do some freelance writing, wander to unfamiliar areas of their new city to examine the built environment, and dissect music and movies with friends. Golden is in a book club at work and Bullard is working with a tutor to learn French. The couple hopes to someday move to Switzerland, where Golden’s mother was born and where she still has family. “It’s an option...or maybe a dream,” she says.
That sense of wonder and desire to wander fuel the young couple. In fact, their Renaissance attitude toward life is made crystal clear when Bullard is asked what advice he would give to college students today. “If a class or an opportunity that interests you comes up, go for it,” he says. “All of my best experiences came from just checking out something I was interested in.”