For Baylor’s Mario Lopez, a senior computer science major, the path to Baylor followed a less than traditional route.
“I’m from Rio Verde in San Luis Potosi [Mexico],” Lopez said. “It’s a tiny town. We’re not even from that town, actually. We’re from a little community 15 to 20 minutes away called San Ciro de Acosta. There are dirt roads. The fence posts are really just chopped up tree trunks.”
Lopez began his journey to Baylor when his family moved to Houston, a changeover that had its challenges and bumps in the road.
“It was a very big transition for myself and my family to move to Houston and start over,” Lopez said. “My parents, they had to pick up with nothing. We didn’t know English at the time. They brought me up to respect the value of hard work. I’ve taken that one thing and I’ve run with it.”
Lopez enrolled in community college in Houston and then transferred to the University of Texas at San Antonio to study business. After a semester in San Antonio, Lopez knew that business wasn’t his passion, and San Antonio did not feel like home.
“I decided to pay Baylor a visit my first year at UTSA. I fell in love with not just the campus but the people here,” Lopez said. “It felt like a really awesome community to be a part of. Coming from a school of over 30,000 students, it’s a completely different experience.
“[Computer science] is a pretty small major at Baylor. Everyone knows one another. I know all my professors and classmates. It wasn’t easy but it’s my senior year. I’m glad that I’ve pulled through.”
Lopez has more than pulled through his Baylor experience; he has thrived.
Within the University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), Lopez holds leadership positions in Computing for Compassion and the ECS Student Organization Council. The council led in the development of Baylor’s ECS Week, a weeklong celebration of students in engineering and computer science that took place across campus and the Waco community Feb. 16-22.
“I had a big attachment to two events in particular: STEM Night at South Bosque [Waco] Elementary and the Wacode Hackathon,” Lopez said. “For STEM Night, it was a group of amazing college students getting together to teach elementary children about the exciting and fun things engineering brings into our world.
“I spent the evening building rockets and flying saucers with kids in an attempt to land on Mars. We threw paper plates and balloons at a bucket — imagination is a wonderful thing.”
The Hackathon brought together more than 100 students from 11 schools around Texas for 12 hours in Cashion Academic Center seeking solutions to issues prevalent in the Waco community. These students worked in diverse teams made up of engineers and computer scientists to build apps, websites and other programs.
Lopez has enjoyed successes in his professional and educational career, yet his character truly shines when he has opportunities to give back to his first home.
Lopez and the student organization were assisting a Waco-area nonprofit in setting up correct disposal of computers that were being replaced. Lopez saw an opportunity.
“What are we going to do with all of these old computers? They were 5 to 10 years old. I thought, ‘Well, the community back home [in Mexico] doesn’t have computers. They don’t have anything. They barely have satellite television,” Lopez said.
“My organization was able to take these computers to Mexico and set up computers for the school and a little internet café there, free of charge. Instead of tossing the computers away, we were able to make that all happen. It was a really cool opportunity to quite literally give back to the village.”
As an outstanding ambassador for Baylor, Lopez is expected to continue to shine bright in his future. He will begin his post-Baylor career with ExxonMobil, a job that he secured after his second internship with the corporation.
“We just meshed so well. A lot of alignment between the values that we were brought up to understand and fulfill here on campus translated so easily to a company like ExxonMobil,” Lopez said.
He credits the rigorous course load and education he received at Baylor in preparing him well for success in his career.
“I was able to talk to a lot of the executives at Exxon and senior vice presidents, the president of the organization, the CIO, everyone,” Lopez said. “I would just talk about giving all the credit to Baylor because Baylor really brought me here. They’re the reason I’m here.”