Empowering Students with the SMU Lyle Thrive Scholars Program

The Thrive Scholars peer-mentoring program, which helps traditionally underrepresented students in the fields of engineering and computer science, has grown immensely since its inception two years ago

Sofia Murillo Hanna Louis
Student Coordinators Sofia Murillo Sanchez and Hannah Louis speaking at the Thrive Induction Ceremony

In a room full of first-year and transfer engineering and computer science students, Thrive Scholars Student Coordinator Sofia Murillo Sanchez is filled with pride and hope. At the annual Induction Ceremony, she welcomed new members into the student mentoring program that has grown rapidly from idea to success story within just two years. 
“A couple years ago, none of this existed,” she said. “Every single one of you are the product of a dream and a deep desire to provide the support that we wished we had to everyone who came after us.” 

In Fall 2021, Murillo Sanchez was among 10 students who were recruited by the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education to develop the Thrive Scholars Program in the Lyle School of Engineering at SMU, which was formulated to provide an inclusive and supportive academic environment. The peer mentoring program was designed specifically for first-year and transfer students who identify as first-generation college students, Pell Grant-eligible, or historically underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities in the fields of engineering or computer science. The program hosts weekly events and seminars that cover a range of topics designed to support students’ transition to SMU Lyle, including imposter syndrome and stress management. It also introduces mentees to various student support services, like the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center, the Office for Social Change and Intercultural Engagement, and the Financial Literacy Program. 

The program, which sets a profound example of what peer mentorship should be across university campuses, has grown by roughly 150% over the past two years. This September at Thrive Scholar’s third annual induction ceremony, students had the opportunity to meet their peer mentors, receive pins, and develop relationships with fellow incoming students.

“Looking over this crowd and seeing all these faces, my heart is so full, it’s about to explode,” said Kathy Hubbard, Assistant Dean for Student Success and Inclusive Excellence at SMU Lyle. Ms. Hubbard led the Black@Lyle Task Force in 2020, which began in the wake of racial unrest across the United States and inspired the idea of supporting traditionally underrepresented students within the SMU Lyle School. She continues to be one of the program’s biggest supporters.

—Interested in supporting the Thrive Scholars Program? Email Dr. Kelyn Rola for more.


Dr Rola

Kathy Hubbard and students at Thrive Scholars Induction Ceremony


During her first year in Thrive, Murillo Sanchez worked as peer mentor while also leading the operations of the program. She and the other team members worked to create a supportive community that ensured students’ success. “From a seedling of an idea to a robust tree offering support and strength to a community that needed it more than ever, especially at Lyle, it has grown immensely,” Murillo Sanchez said. “This profound growth is not just a testament to the initiative itself but to each one of you. The difference we're making today will echo in the corridors of SMU and Lyle for years to come, ensuring that every new face feels welcomed, nurtured, and emboldened no matter what community they come from.” 

Every Thrive Scholar student is paired with an upper-class peer mentor who provides ongoing, one-on-one academic and social support. Since all Thrive Scholars are new to SMU – and nearly half are the first in their families to attend college – continuous support is crucial for their success. 

“Thrive Scholars bridges the gap for students, giving them opportunities and tools while making a profound impact on their lives,” said Hannah Louis, Thrive Scholars Student Coordinator. Thrive Scholars actively seeks out and welcomes students who may face unique challenges and barriers.  

The program encourages weekly attendance of seminars and events for the success of students. Participation involves a one-year commitment, with additional opportunities to attend specialized events and serve as a peer mentor later during students’ academic careers.

Dr Rola Hanna Sofia

From Left: Hannah Louis, Dr. Kelyn Rola, Sofia Murillo Sanchez


“Where the magic lies in Thrive is within the people,” said Dr. Kelyn Rola, Director of the Thrive Scholars Program. “While your peer mentor is surely going to teach you about who to email when you want to drop a class, or even how to write an email, they are also going to be your personal cheerleader when that first test grade comes in higher – or lower – than expected.”  

Thrive Scholars’ peer mentors and student coordinators like Hannah Louis and Sofia Murillo Sanchez are experienced engineering and computer science students who understand the process of being new to campus and how difficult the journey can be. “Having a mentor from the program, someone acquainted with the nooks and crannies of this school, would've made that path so much smoother for me,” Murillo Sanchez said. “But, as they say, with each challenge comes an opportunity – and the Thrive Scholars Program is our way of transforming those challenges into steppingstones for future generations.” 

Peer mentors meet with their mentees every other week throughout students’ first year at SMU, assisting with resume development, job and internship preparation, and developing effective study skills. In addition to academic support, mentees are also coached on how to set short- and long-term goals, how to reframe unhelpful thoughts, and how to use character strengths to live life to the fullest. Peer mentors, who are also traditionally underrepresented students, have often experienced similar unique hardships and can serve as positive examples for mentees. 

"The goal of this program is not to simply get you to the finish line of your undergraduate degree," Dr. Rola said. "It is to see you thrive while doing so." 


SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering thrives on innovation that transcends traditional boundaries. We strongly believe in the power of externally funded, industry-supported research to drive progress and provide exceptional students with valuable industry insights. Our mission is to lead the way in digital transformation within engineering education, all while ensuring that every student graduates as a confident leader. Founded in 1925, SMU Lyle is one of the oldest engineering schools in the Southwest, offering undergraduate and graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees.


About SMU 

SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and nearly 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, community and the world.