From war to peace: David Nibayubahe makes the most of his opportunities 

From war to peace: David Nibayubahe makes the most of his opportunities 

Oct. 30, 2019

Maryville College student David Nibayubahe ’23 considers himself to be a very blessed young man.

Nibayubahe was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania, where his family was trying to escape the ravages of war in Africa. Now, he is pursuing his dream of a career as a businessman in the peaceful setting of Maryville College in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The 18-year-old freshman, who plans to major in management and minor in marketing with a focus on nonprofit leadership, arrived in the United States on July 24, 2007, and after a long train ride, he and his family settled in Memphis. He was 6 years old at the time.

“The reason why we came here was because it was war time in Africa, so we came here to get a better life, to have more opportunities,” he said.

One of those opportunities is the chance to attend Maryville College.

“I found out about the school through a friend who went here, that I went to high school with,” Nibayubahe said. “I wanted to go to a small, liberal arts school that would challenge me and be the best fit for me. It’s not too far from home, but it’s far enough!

“I can get an education here, but they also help you build a resume, have work experience, connect with people,” he added. “I also have the Bonner Scholarship and the ALANA Cultural Diversity Award, and those two scholarships give me opportunity to go out into the community and serve people. I know what it’s like to need service, to need help, and now I have a chance to help others.”

With the Bonner Scholars Program, Nibayubahe works at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Alcoa as an academic mentor and volunteer. Ryan Indelicato, Bonner Program Coordinator at the College, praised the young man for his work and his attitude—and for the example he sets for other students.

“Since David arrived on the Maryville College campus for his Bonner Scholars orientation, he has embodied what it means to be a Bonner and what it means to be a Maryville College Scot,” Indelicato said. “He constantly talks about his classes, service and peers in a positive light and works hard to see the best in everything that he is involved in. In just his first full month as a student, David has gone above and beyond to fulfill the requirements for his scholarships and truly takes pride in what he does. I think that when students see David’s passion and drive, they will be called to follow.”

Nibayubahe has enthusiastically entered into College life. He is involved in the Black Student Alliance, an organization encompassing individuals from many different ethnicities who educate each other on the struggles and benefits of being a minority on campus. He is also a member of Voices of Praise, a group in which members connect through the power of music, worship and fun, and the College’s Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, part of a national alliance of colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations that prepares and certifies college students for professional careers in nonprofit management. Upon graduation in 2023, he will have the designation of CNP—Certified Nonprofit Professional, Nibayubahe said. He plans to work his way up in a company, learning the business, marketing and management sides, with the ultimate goal of starting his own company.

“I want to use the skills that I’m learning to help the world, to give back,” he said.

Nibayubahe knows how fortunate he is to be a Maryville College student.

“People care a lot here at this school,” he said. “They want to work with you. If you’re struggling, you can talk to your teachers and they will help you and guide you. I also like the small classes here. You can engage with the teachers. You don’t have to be a number here – they work with you. I also like the friends I’ve made here—I know they have my back. I also like my Bonner coordinator. Everyone here wants to work with you, to be a family.”

Nibayubahe received another opportunity at the same time he became a Maryville College student. On Aug. 15, he attended freshman orientation at the College, went back to Memphis that evening, and when he returned to Maryville the following day, he came as a permanent citizen of the United States.

“At the (naturalization) ceremony, I was so happy,” he recalled. “I consider the United States to be my home. It’s where I grew up, and I feel safe in the United States. I have friends here, and I have family here. This is where I call home. I can finally say I’m a citizen of the place I call home now.

“I’m a really blessed person to be in the position where I am today,” he said. “Most people don’t have a chance to go to college, especially at a small liberal arts college like Maryville. I was blessed by God, me and my family, to come to the United States and for me to be in college right now.”

Story by Linda Braden Albert for Maryville College


Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”