Zoe Mukendi '26 Awarded Texas Society of Professional Engineers Student Engineer of the Year

Thrive Scholars mentor and civil engineering student wins award from the Dallas TSPE chapter

Zoe Mukendi '26 Awarded Texas Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE) Student Engineer of the Year
Zoe Mukendi at the TSPE Awards Luncheon February 21, 2024.

Zoe Mukendi's journey to SMU Lyle was more than just an academic pursuit, it was a testament to her determination and ambition.

From her early days as a mentee in the Thrive Scholars Program to her current role as a mentor, Mukendi’s passion for civil engineering and international affairs is evident. In fact, she hopes to someday make a global impact by building a school in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where her parents were born. “I have always been inspired by my mother's vision to build a school in her homeland,” she said.

Last week, Mukendi was honored with the Dallas Chapter of The Texas Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE) Student of the Year Award for her academic excellence and leadership. Guided by her civil engineering professor, Dr. Janille Smith-Colin, Mukendi’s path was paved with opportunities to make a difference, both on campus and beyond.

“Zoe stepped up to take leadership when she was a first-year student,” Dr. Smith-Colin said. “Zoe was in my intro to civil engineering class, and she is a determined civil engineering student with a bright future.”

It was in middle school when Mukendi’s love for math and science sparked her interest in engineering.

“I was torn between architecture and engineering when picking my high school degree plan,” Mukendi said. “I didn’t only want to design things but wanted to see the plan and build it like Legos!”

Now a sophomore at SMU, Mukendi is pursuing her B.S. in Civil Engineering with a minor in Public Policy and International Affairs. As the current president of the TSPE chapter on campus, her main goal is clear: to advocate for license and empower her fellow engineering peers.

“My goal is to be a leader in the civil engineering field,” she said. “I love the groups I’m a part of, like Thrive, Tower Scholars, and TSPE – I just want to make a difference.”

SMU Lyle Alum Tyler Huynh Young Engineer of the Year, and Zoe Mukendi Student Engineer of the Year  at the TSPE Awards Luncheon February 21, 2024

SMU Lyle Alum Tyler Huynh Young Engineer of the Year, and Zoe Mukendi Student Engineer of the Year at the TSPE Awards Luncheon February 21, 2024

Along with the constant support of her mentors and peers, Mukendi has worked collaboratively to promote networking, provide resume help, and connect students with valuable opportunities in the field. Her dedication and leadership didn't go unnoticed, earning her recognition as a shining star within the SMU community.

“I love being a mentor and working with students who I can relate to – I want to continue working in Thrive throughout the course of my time at SMU,” she said. “I am excited that I will be serving as one of the Student Coordinators next year.”

Serving as the president of the newly formed TSPE board, Mukendi is leading and working with a collective team to reestablish and hopefully re-charter the chapter at SMU.   

“I believe we need to have a TSPE chapter on campus,” she said. “This organization promotes licensure for undergraduate and graduate students who are prepping to take the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering Exam) and the PE (Principals and Practice of Engineering Exam).”

In 2020, TSPE lost its charter at SMU due to the COVID pandemic and inactivity on campus. Although TSPE is still unchartered at SMU, Mukendi recently presented a TSPE charter proposal to the Student Senate, along with fellow board members, professors, mentors and SMU Lyle Alums.

“It is exciting to have Zoe as a civil engineering student at Lyle,” Dr. Smith-Colin said. “I have no doubt she is going to be an amazing engineer and continue making strides with leading TSPE.”

As Mukendi awaits the results from the boards’ charter proposal, she looks toward plans for the future – forging a path of engineering excellence and leaving an enduring mark on the world.

“I am trusting God with whatever His plan is for me in civil engineering and wherever I am led,” she said. “I want to use the engineering experience I gain from SMU Lyle to help collaborate and address international development issues.”

Mukendi says despite the challenges and the doubts that may arise, young women should continue pursuing careers in STEM. “There are a lot of stigmas around women in engineering, especially women of color,” she said. “Try not to make those stigmas your identity.”

She believes that true growth stems from leadership, as it challenges young scholars to rise to a higher standard and encourages collaboration with others.

“Through leadership, I have not only honed my technical skills but also discovered my true potential as an engineer,” she said. “As I look ahead to the future, I am excited to continue developing these skills and contributing to the field of civil engineering for years to come.”

About the Bobby Lyle School of Engineering
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.