GCU embraced Mucyo — now he’s ready for next step
Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the April issue of GCU Magazine. To read the digital version of the magazine, click here.
Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by David Kadlubowski
Brian Mucyo felt overwhelmed as he stood in front of the main entrance to campus on that late August day in 2016, two suitcases at his side and his cane in hand.
He already had been through a lot of trauma in his short life. Doctors had to remove his right eye when he was 3 years old. Then he had to leave his home in Rwanda at age 6 and go to Belgium so specialists could treat his left eye, which had limited vision.
But this was different. He felt lost and unsure of what the next four years had in store.
“Hey, are you OK?” a Public Safety officer asked.
“I have to go to this place, and I don’t know where that is … I don’t know,” Mucyo said.
Within moments, another Public Safety officer was there with a golf cart to escort Mucyo to his new home – Canyon Hall at Grand Canyon University.
“It was pretty impressive because that was my first interaction with the school,” Mucyo said. “I remember the first thing that really stood out about the school was, ‘Why is everybody so nice?’ Everybody was holding doors for everybody … and that’s something that’s really different about the school.”
Four years later, Mucyo is far from the nervous freshman who would hide his cane when he was able. Now he’s an accomplished Honors College student who just happens to use a guide dog. The finance and economics major is a learning advocate in the Academic and Career Excellence Centers and was chosen to be a student speaker at Commencement before it was postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
All those pieces make up who Mucyo is without defining him or limiting what he can do.
“When I first came to the United States, and in my life before that, at no point did I think I was going to sit here,” he said. “It’s really humbling. The way I see it is I would not have been able to be this person or accomplish all these things that people are recognizing me for if GCU wasn’t the place it is.”
Colangelo College of Business Dean Dr. Randy Gibb did not take lightly the task of selecting a student speaker to represent the CCOB.
“He’s an amazing young man,” Gibb said. “When you get to know him and understand his backstory, it’s just super impressive. But more importantly, he looks at life as a series of obstacles that he can overcome. He doesn’t seem to ever make excuses, and he exceeds everything he sets out to accomplish.
“He really embraces who we are at GCU and the GCU way of how we serve out our faith and we serve others.”
Mucyo has strived to give back to the University.
“He’s one of those students that wants to do a lot of everything and make a huge impact on the world,” Honors College Associate Dean Breanna Naegeli said. “He’s met every deadline that I’m aware of, he has excelled at everything he does, his GPA is through the roof and he’s squeezing in time to apply for law school throughout all of this. He’s just an exceptional student.
“There’s really nothing stopping him.” Mucyo has been a leader of the English Empowerment Program, which provides non-English speaking students with a safe environment to learn the language from students who have experienced that struggle themselves. He is a board member for the Arizona Association of Blind Students and helps educate people on campus about guide dog etiquette and other challenges he faces.
His advocacy has made the campus safer for him and Mannix, his guide dog of almost three years, and he hopes it will benefit others as well.
But GCU wasn’t just the place that helped him as a student. It also sparked his faith.
“I’ve definitely seen a lot of growth in Brian,” said Aaron Koehne, Ministry Outreach Coordinator and one of Mucyo’s mentors. “It’s remarkable where he’s at with all he’s gone through, so to see the way that he’s able to forgive and just live with so much joy is really remarkable and a testament to his faith.”
The campus environment, which helped Mucyo learn to not compare himself to others and to find his purpose over the last four years, also taught him the most valuable lesson of all: to be his complete, authentic self.
“You look at this area we’re in, people would avoid it or go around the long way just because they don’t want to go through, like, ‘My gosh that neighborhood is so terrible,’” he said. “But then the school looks at it as, ‘No, this is a neighborhood with potential. We don’t care about how other people look at the people here, we’re going to do what we can to help them and show them what they can achieve.’
“Ironically, now that I think about it, that’s exactly what happened to me – leading a life up to then where people make up their mind of who you are before they even get to know you, simply because I’m walking with my cane.
“GCU just became a place where I realized that I didn’t have to be ashamed of that. It’s where I could walk into an office, talk to a professor, go to a job interview, and people are going to look at me and treat me exactly the way they would pretty much anybody else.”
Now that his time at GCU is almost over, he feels like an 18-year-old leaving home for the first time to go to college.
“It’s forever going to be a part of me,” Mucyo said with a smile. “The school has gotten me ready to go.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]