Mario Lopez, a senior computer science major, took a long and winding road to Baylor. Moving away from a small town in Mexico to Houston as a kid, graduating high school and enrolling in community college classes, transferring to UTSA and finally arriving at Baylor, Lopez has a remarkable story that is rooted in a search for community that he found within his Baylor family in Waco.
He shares his experience at Baylor, including a pair of internships at ExxonMobil that have landed him a permanent job-in-waiting with the company as he finishes up his senior year of studies for a spring graduation.
Q: What drew you into the computer science program at Baylor?A: I transferred to Baylor after community college and studying business at the University of Texas at San Antonio. After spending a semester at UTSA, I knew business wasn’t what I wanted to devote my life to. I decided to visit Baylor and fell in love with not just the campus, but the people that were here. Coming from a school of over 30,000 students and classrooms that were the size of large auditoriums, it’s just a completely different experience at Baylor studying computer science.
Q: What student organizations are you involved in at Baylor?
A: I try to stay involved quite a bit, both within the Department of Computer Science and outside the department. When I first started at Baylor, I liked to involve myself a lot with the Hispanic Student Association and the support groups and student organizations for transfer students. But then as soon as I started to make my way through my sophomore and junior year in computer science, I took up leadership positions in an organization called Computing for Compassion. That is my passion project. It’s a really awesome organization. We teach kids in our community about computer science and how to code. We provide I.T. consulting to non-profits in the Waco community, free of charge. It really gives me an opportunity to get together with some Baylor computer science students and go outside the classroom to use the abilities we have to help others.
Q: What was your experience like at ExxonMobil?
A: I learned about ExxonMobil internships through graduates of Baylor’s Computer Science and Bioinformatics program. I was instantly drawn to the fact that ExxonMobil and Baylor both place a lot of emphasis on community. Everyone’s super friendly, super attentive to one another. As a sophomore, I interviewed for the internship on campus and received an offer on the spot. I loved, loved, loved the internship. I got to develop mobile applications for wearable devices. My team and I, we just meshed so well. Now, I’ve accepted a full-time offer to work with them after I graduate in May, and I’m super excited.
Q: What from your time at Baylor prepared you to succeed in your internship and eventual career?
A: A lot of what I learned in the classroom was really a lot of grit and the ability to use the resources that are given to you. That curiosity is stimulated in a lot of different ways. Our professors really encourage and format the curriculum to be very project-heavy. That allows me as a computer scientist to understand what it takes to build good software. There is a lot of theory, but that emphasis on projects helped me go right into work and realize the different components I had to build and the way in which I had to build them. I give Baylor all the credit for my success at the internships. My classes prepared me very well for the internship.
Q: What was your experience like in Mexico and how has that affected your professional career and aspirations?
A: I’m from a little community in Mexico called San Ciro de Acosta that is about 15-20 minutes from Rio Verde in San Luis Potosi. It’s very small and a completely different world. We have a ranch down there, and I’ve been pretty involved in trying to integrate as many parts of my life as possible. So, one thing that we did last year with Computing for Compassion was work with a nonprofit, CASA of McLennan County, by helping them with a hardware refresh project. They had some old hardware they wanted to replace. The last part of the project was disposal of the old computers. Well, the community back home, they don’t have these computers. They barely have satellite TV. So, we were able to take the computers to Mexico. We put together a little bit of a fund for the school. And we also put a little internet café there. And we hooked them up with all these computers, free of charge. It was a really cool opportunity to quite literally give back to the village. I always keep Mexico in mind, and t’s been cool to integrate the different parts of my life together, through Baylor.