On Michaela Mucha’s laptop covered with stickers, look close.
Mucha has two autographs right in the middle from two people she met at High Point University – Aaron Draplin, a well-known graphic designer; and Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple.
Draplin’s signature is all arrows and exclamation marks. Wozniak simply wrote “Woz.” Many HPU students have “Woz” on their watch, T-shirt, even a dollar bill. Mucha has hers on her laptop.
To Mucha, the two signatures are “pretty cool.” But they inspire her, too. That’s what she wants to be – a creative leader.
She’s already a campus leader and an exceptionally talented graphic designer. Her work has earned her awards and tapped into what she first discovered in middle school when she was, in her words, the “artsy kid.”
Mucha, a senior graphic design major, now has another award. She’s been selected as HPU’s Extraordinary Leader for February.
HPU helped her get there.
The Allure of Inspiration
Mucha discovered HPU through a college information session, and she liked it because she wanted to marry her love for graphic design with computer science or math.
When she visited, her parents – Bert and Patricia Mucha – liked it for something else: HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein.
Qubein came to the United States as a teenager from 5,000 miles away. He came to attend college with only $50 in his pocket. Through hard work and an optimistic vision, he excelled and eventually became the president of HPU, his alma mater.
Mucha’s parents could relate to Qubein’s story. Patricia came from Mexico with her family when she was 15. Bert, short for Edilberto, came from the Philippines with his family when he was 20. The two enlisted in the Army, and during their service, they met.
Bert is now a medical technologist; Patricia is retired after a 27-year Army career. After a life on Army bases worldwide, they now have settled in Havre de Grace, Maryland, a postcard-perfect town beside the Chesapeake Bay.
After hearing Qubein speak during their visit, they both knew where their only daughter, their oldest child, would go.
“You’re coming here,” they told her.
Mucha came in as a Presidential Scholar and started out as a computer science major. Then as a sophomore, she enrolled in a graphic design course.
That’s when she really took off.
From Competence Comes Confidence
Mucha loves 2 a.m.
She’ll open the windows of her fourth-floor room in Wanek Center, turn up her music and sit on her bed among her circle of pillows and stuffed animals. Then, she’ll create.
She’ll whip out a dozen designs in an hour or so. She has designed resumes for friends, Instagram banners for fundraisers sponsored by her sorority, Phi Mu, and Campus Concierge slides for Aramark, the company that feeds HPU.
For the past two years, she has interned for Aramark. She has designed and edited more than 60 promotional graphics and videos for social media and spearheaded creative development for various special events.
Then came HPU’s Quality Enhancement Plan. She has worked closely with QEP Director Dr. Jim Trammell, an assistant communications professor. She designed Trammel’s growth mindset guidebook and more than 30 slides, posters and visual projects.
She also helped lead Dime Design, a student-led design agency. She was the agency’s new business coordinator, and she helped create the branding possibilities for various campus groups and local non-profits.
And of course, there’s Draplin. She helped coordinate his visit, too. Meanwhile, she is the design director for The Brand Girls, a female empowerment organization started by HPU grad Rachael Bozsik.
Last summer, her talent helped her land a graphic design internship with Ivanka Trump’s women’s fashion company, Ivanka Trump HQ. That opportunity brought Mucha to New York City.
“I once was scared about graduating,” she says today. “But after living in New York City, I’m ready to graduate. I was on my own for the first time in my life, and now, I know what I want to do and where I want to live. I found my city.”
She really found her city a year ago. Allan Beaver, HPU’s artist in residence, brought Mucha and his other students to visit some of the world’s biggest design firms headquartered in New York City. There, they met a few legends.
Like designer Milton Glaser.
“It now feels like I can be that,” she says. “I’ve heard their stories, and they’re amazing. But they also started out from nothing, and it makes what I want to do realistic. It doesn’t feel like a dream anymore. It feels like an expectation.”
Lessons Learned, Obstacles Overcome
Mucha’s campus involvement is as varied as her graphic design portfolio.
Here is a snapshot of her leadership list: Junior Class President; senior class representative of the Student Government Association; resident assistant at Wanek Center; member of Alpha Kappa Psi, the professional business fraternity; Alpha Delta Theta, the Christian Service sorority; president and past treasurer of HPU’s Graphic Design Club; and member of Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity.
She’s also president and past volunteer coordinator of HPU’s Food Recovery Network, a student group that bags food unused in HPU’s restaurants and takes it to local non-profits who give it to families in need.
In her two years as president, the Food Recovery Network has donated more than 56,000 meals to the High Point community.
Yet, her volunteerism doesn’t only revolve around numbers. It revolves around the friends she’s made and the perspective she’s gained — from volunteering in Costa Rica with Alpha Phi Omega to bagging unused food three times a week at The Wanek Center.
She’ll graduate in May with a graphic design degree with minors in communication and computer science. Then, in June she’ll start a professional graphic design internship with Disney.
Mucha says HPU helped make that happen. The lessons learned?
Don’t be afraid.
Step out of your comfort zone.
Follow your passion.
For Mucha, look what happened when she did.