SMU Lyle diversity leader makes it her mission to help others

As president of the SMU Chapter of Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers, Sofia Murillo-Sanchez has worked tirelessly to maximize the organization’s impact and make a difference in people’s lives. As she prepares to enter her senior year, the Computer Science major hopes to one day work on global development projects that will change the world.

Sofia M Sanchez portrait 2023
Sofia Murillo Sanchez ’24 discovered her life’s mission to help others through a profound experience that happened when she moved to the United States at six years old.

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Sofia and her family moved to Egypt when she was two for her father’s petroleum engineering work. There, she attended an international school and was surrounded by diversity and many cultures. Not so at her school in Houston, Texas, where her family later relocated.

“Moving back to the U.S. was a big shift because of the culture shock. It led me to being very aware of my identity and how I’m different from everyone else,” she recalls. “Something that had been just a part of me, suddenly became all of me.”

In high school, Sofia reached out to newly arriving international students to make sure they felt welcome and comfortable. She tutored students in English-as-a-second-language and worked to launch a junior chapter of the Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE), for which she received a Future Leader of Tomorrow award from the Houston professional chapter.

“What I want my legacy to be is to create leaders, not just people successful academically, but true leaders,” Sofia says. “Because that’s where the changemakers are.”

Sofia comes from a family of engineers. Her mother was an industrial engineer; her father is a petroleum engineer; and her older sister, Manuela ’21 is a mechanical engineer for Bain & Company.

Enrolling at SMU Lyle School of Engineering solidified Sofia’s trajectory. 

“I’ve been able to excel because SMU Lyle has created an environment for me to grow,” she said. “SMU is truly a school full of world changers. You meet all kinds of strangers who are trying to change the world, just like you.”

Freshman year, she leveraged her experience as marketing officer for SMU’s chapter of SHPE and immediately began applying for opportunities.

“Whenever you’re involved in a professional organization, you’re going to have companies interested in you,” she noted. “Even as a freshman.” 

Companies like Accenture, Proctor & Gamble, and the National Security Agency began courting her. The summer after her freshman year she interned at AT&T and externed at Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Before her sophomore year, she’d secured an internship in the Growing Future Leaders (GFL) program at BCG. This summer, she’ll return to BCG through their internship program as a Summer Associate.

Yet, one of her biggest accomplishments to date is serving as president of SMU’s SHPE chapter, which previously received the National Small Chapter of the Year award.

“As a freshman, I’d envisioned all the things I wanted SHPE to do,” Sofia recalls. “The obstacle was the resources.”

Undeterred, she set out to build those resources, kicking off fundraising to align with National Hispanic Heritage Month. In only two months, SHPE raised well over $14,000, enabling 20 students to attend the national conference, where some secured offers from companies like Apple and Honeywell.

“Throughout it all was the idea of maximizing impact and growing an organization to impact more lives. I am grateful to the SMU community for supporting these,” she says. “It means so much, because these [supporters] are essentially saying that they believe in us to be world changers.”

After graduation, Sofia plans to use her computer science degree and skills gained at SMU Lyle to make a difference.

“Long term, I hope to work on global development projects that will change the world,” she says. “Giving students access to the things I’ve had at SMU in ways that will impact the world—that is what I am working toward ultimately.”

— Learn more about SMU Lyle's world changers. —

About the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering 
SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, founded in 1925, is one of the oldest engineering schools in the Southwest. The school offers twelve undergraduate and 29 graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees, in the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Computer Science; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Mechanical Engineering and Operations Research and Engineering Management.

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.