Meet Sean Nix: Profile of a TAC Volunteer

Monday, August 9, 2021

This article is part of a series profiling some of TAC’s volunteers. Learn more about TAC’s volunteer structure, the role of volunteers and the benefits of volunteering.

Introducing Sean Nix – a TAC volunteer and an Associate Dean at Mohawk College in the School of Engineering Technology and Aviation. Sean has taught Transportation Engineering Technology at both Mohawk College and Seneca College and has previously worked in various transportation roles in both the private and public sector.

TAC: Tell us about yourself!

SN: Since June 2020, I am an Associate Dean at Mohawk College in the School of Engineering Technology and Aviation, specifically looking after the Mathematics & Statistics and Building & Construction Sciences portfolios. I taught Transportation Engineering Technology for seven years at both Mohawk College (2013-2018, 2019-2020) and Seneca College (2018-2019), and had previously worked in various transportation roles in both the private and public sector.

I hold a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning (BURPl) and a Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) in Civil Engineering, both from Ryerson University in Toronto. I had my first child in October 2020 and have experienced the joys of watching him grow up while working from home.

When not working or parenting, I still try to find time to perform professionally in choral settings (harder to do during COVID). Fun but morbid fact – I was hired to sing at the state funeral of former Federal Finance Minister, the Honourable James Michael Flaherty and the funeral of former Toronto Mayor, Robert Bruce Ford.

TAC: What led you to a career in the transportation sector?

SN: My original career path since the age of four was to be a transit driver, as I developed an early fascination of public transit and wanted to experience driving all of the various routes in my then hometown of Brampton, ON.

This eventually transitioned into a desire to serve in public transportation planning, as I was already writing letters of suggestions to Brampton Transit by the tender age of 16 with well-received feedback. By the end of high school, my grades in math and science were too abysmal to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering (ironic that I am now the head of Mathematics at an Ontario college), so I enrolled in Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson because it had the most transportation courses on its course list at the time, including an exchange opportunity at Sheffield Hallam University in England (the exchange option that also had the most transportation courses).

Close to graduation, I would be discouraged by prospective employers who were speculative at the lack of transportation engineering fundamentals learned at the time, so I enrolled in a transportation engineering course in the Civil Engineering program at Ryerson through special permissions, and eventually applied to their Masters program. Dr. Bhagwant Persaud shifted my desired career path to road safety, and I was offered my first part-time job at iTRANS Consulting by Geni Bahar during the year when she was awarded TAC's Distinguished Service Award.

After completing additional private sector experience at IBI Group, I transitioned to the Region of Peel for my first public sector job and remained there until officially transitioning to college teaching, with one four-month stint at the City of Toronto in between.

When the job ad for Mohawk College's reputed Transportation Engineering Technology program was posted, I never thought in a million years that I would be the successful candidate. My sole purpose for applying was to gain exposure to possible part-time teaching. I thoroughly enjoyed my time empowering the next generation of transportation professionals, both with hands-on training influenced by my career and through partnered capstone projects with local stakeholders (my way of living the consulting world without actively being able to work on those projects). I am now responsible for college-wide delivery of courses in math and statistics, as well as our Architectural Technology and Technician programs, Civil Engineering Technology and Technician programs, Urban and Regional Planning Technician Geographic Information Systems program, and our forthcoming graduate certificate program in Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems.

TAC: What professional achievement are you most proud of? 

SN: Nothing is more gratifying than hearing of former students landing their first job after (or even immediately prior to) graduating. Being a key influence in their careers has been the highlight of my career, and I am ever grateful for the opportunity to influence post-secondary curricula that is responsive to current and emerging needs.

TAC: Tell us about your history as a TAC volunteer.

SN: Because Geni Bahar was so influential in kick-starting my career, I have remained in touch with her, and would often share some of the things that I would cover in my lectures after transitioning to teaching. At the beginning of 2017, Mohawk’s first course in Road Safety was published on the program website, and I immediately shared the news with Geni. She countered with an invite to the Road Safety Professional Subcommittee (now Road Safety Workforce Subcommittee), which I absolutely could not refuse. One year later, Rebecca Peterniak invited me to serve as Co-Chair of the Subcommittee, and this led to defacto participation on the Road Safety Committee.

I succeeded Dan Havercroft on the Traffic Operations and Management Committee (TOMC) as a TOMC-appointee following his retirement from Mohawk College in 2020. When Spring and Fall Meetings transitioned to being online in 2020, I accepted an invite to join the Workforce Development Council (WDC) since meetings across councils and committees were more staggered, and I have a particular interest in post-secondary education in transportation. I now serve as Vice-Chair (and Chair-Elect) of the WDC, and a founding member of the new Education Committee.

TAC: How has volunteering with TAC helped you?

SN: Like any other professional association, TAC has been a great outlet for me to give back to the profession after everything that it has provided me over the years. Particularly as a post-secondary administrator, it is great to know that others across the country can benefit from the various professional experiences and perspectives that I can share. TAC has also provided an excellent network for collaborative opportunities outside of the organization.

TAC: Tell us about a challenge that you would like to help solve.  

SN: Of course, my answer has to be biased towards transportation education. We continue to see a high demand for transportation professionals, yet our post-secondary institutions continue to provide bare-bones transportation education particularly at the undergraduate level. There continue to be civil engineering programs in Canada that do not even offer a single transportation course, be it an elective or compulsory course, and other related professions are equally guilty. I hope that this changes, and I hope that my work at Mohawk College and at TAC help to influence this development.

TAC: What advice would you give someone just starting out in the transportation sector?

SN: Be open-minded, and never reject an invitation – be it to volunteer, to serve on a committee in your respective agency, or to take on a new portfolio at your place of work that is completely unrelated to what you are currently doing. You never know what doors these opportunities will open, and what interests that you never knew you would have will be piqued. Additional advice for new graduates – connect with your professors to offer a guest lecture, as this is your immediate ability to give back to the foundational educational experience that landed you a kick-start in your career.


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