What’s HappeningNewsProviding Opportunities Through TAC’s Student Grant | 2023 TAC Conference & Exhibition

Providing Opportunities Through TAC’s Student Grant | 2023 TAC Conference & Exhibition

October 4, 2023

To help break down the barriers that prevent students from attending its annual conference, TAC offers at least one student grant to enhance their educational opportunities outside the classroom. 

In 2023, Matea Ceric, a student pursuing a Master of Applied Science in Civil Engineering at the University of Waterloo, received the TAC Student Grant to attend the 2023 TAC Conference & Exhibition in Ottawa, Ontario, September 24-27.

Matea received a full conference registration as well as free accommodation and travel to the conference. She provided the following as a summary of her Conference experience.

Q. How would you rate your Conference experience and why?

A person standing in front of a large blue signDescription automatically generatedI would rate my conference experience as a 9 out of 10, and there are several reasons why this is the case.

First and foremost, the conference provided an outstanding platform for networking. It brought together a diverse array of professionals, students, and practitioners in the field of transportation. This diversity in attendance allowed for enriching conversations and interactions. I had the privilege of engaging with passionate advocates for the transportation profession who exhibited a profound knowledge of their respective areas of expertise. These individuals were not only knowledgeable but also eager to share their insights and experiences, which contributed to my overall learning and engagement during the conference.

In addition, the organization of the conference was very well done! The location of the conference was great, with excellent service and a really great job done by the organizers and volunteers that made the conference experience a seamless experience. A lot of work went into the conference, and it was apparent in the quality of the event.

Q. How was the Conference beneficial educationally and professionally?

From an educational perspective, the TAC conference offered a wealth of knowledge and insights. Attending the various sessions and presentations allowed me to gain exposure to the latest research, trends, and innovations in the field of transportation. For instance, I attended diverse sessions on climate change adaptation, road safety, bikesharing and micromobility, curbside mobility management, asset management, pavement engineering, as well as project delivery. Experts and practitioners shared their expertise, providing valuable information that could be applied to real-world scenarios. This exposure to diverse perspectives and cutting-edge information covered topics that are not typically covered in the regular civil engineering curriculum in detail, therefore greatly enriching my educational experience.

Professionally, the conference was a goldmine for networking and career development! Connecting with a broad spectrum of transportation professionals opened opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and future partnerships. Meeting passionate advocates for the profession meant forming connections with individuals who could provide guidance and potentially open doors for career advancement.

Q. Tell us why you feel students should attend the Conference.

I would recommend that any student seeking valuable in-person networking experiences attend this conference, for several reasons:

  1. Learning Opportunities: Students can attend sessions, workshops, and presentations delivered by transportation experts, gaining insights and exposure to the latest developments in their chosen area of study. The fact that there is such a diversity of sessions that cover various topics in transportation engineering and planning means that there will be something of interest to every student.
  2. Networking: I found that the TAC conference is an excellent platform for networking. Students can interact with professionals, researchers, and peers who share their academic or career interests. There are a lot of supportive people that you can meet, who will gladly share their experiences and knowledge with you. These connections can lead to collaborations, internships, research opportunities, and even job offers down the line. Building a professional network early on is invaluable.
  3. Inspiration: Hearing from accomplished professionals and experts can be incredibly inspiring for students. It can help them set goals, find mentors, and gain a deeper understanding of the real-world applications of their field of study. Conferences often feature keynote speakers who have achieved great success, offering valuable life and career lessons. For example, one of the Q&A sessions that I attended on bikesharing in four major Canadian cities made me think about what could be done to improve micromobility in my own community.
  4. Skill Development: Many conferences offer workshops and hands-on sessions that can help students develop practical skills. TAC is no exception. Whether it is learning about new software, research methodologies, or presentation techniques, these skills can be directly applied in both academic and professional settings, and I think students would greatly benefit from this.
  5. Resume Building: Attending conferences and presenting research or projects can be an excellent addition to a student’s resume. It demonstrates initiative, a commitment to learning, and engagement with their field, which can make them stand out to potential employers or graduate programs. I would especially encourage students to take advantage of the TAC Student Grant and the various scholarship opportunities.
  6. Personal Growth: Conferences often require students to step out of their comfort zones, whether it is presenting in front of an audience, engaging in discussions, or networking with strangers. This can boost confidence, communication skills, and personal growth. I presented some of my graduate work in front of an audience and it was a great learning experience! I got some great questions from the audience and positive feedback on my work that made me step out of my comfort zone, but it was well worth it.

Q. What did you enjoy the most at the Conference?

A person standing in front of a busDescription automatically generatedOne aspect that I really enjoyed at this conference was the technical tour that I attended. It was a tour of OC Transpo’s operations facilities and electric bus charging stations.

We first got a demonstration of how the electric buses are charged, both using a cord and a pantograph, which was very interesting! We learned a lot about the electric fleet, what makes an electric bus different than a typical diesel bus, some challenges and success stories of their implementation and OC Transpo’s plans for future expansion.

We also got a tour of the operations and control centre, where the whole rail and bus network under OC Transpo is diligently monitored 24 hours per day to ensure that the system runs as smoothly as possible.

Finally, we were able to try out the bus and light rail simulators. It really felt as though you were driving an actual LRT, that is how realistic the simulators were!

Q. What did you value the most at the Conference?

A group of people posing for a photoDescription automatically generatedI valued the opportunity to attend the whole conference as part of the student grant. I think having the chance to come and experience the conference in its entirety was a huge bonus since I would be able to attend multiple and various sessions. Seeing familiar faces multiple times throughout the conference not only enhanced relationships but also facilitated more meaningful and productive interactions. Overall, being able to immerse myself fully in the conference experience, thanks to the student grant, was a major highlight that enriched my overall experience.

Q. Did you attend the Student & Young Professional Meet & Greet?

Yes, I did attend the Meet & Greet, and it was a nice opportunity to network further with conference attendees. There were students in attendance, which was valuable since I was able to meet up with my fellow students and young professionals from various universities and companies.

Q. Were you able to network and connect with TAC members, organizations, and other young professionals?

Two women standing next to each otherDescription automatically generatedI was able to network a lot! Because of the various social events, such as the Night at the Museum, the coffee breaks and technical tours, there were plenty of opportunities to meet and connect with other TAC members.

In addition, I was able to spend some time going around the exhibition hall to speak with a variety of exhibitors. Some of the notable exhibitors were CurbIQ, Cematrix, BDI, Rogers Communications, etc. who were all very welcoming (and had great swag!).

Q. Are there other thoughts or anecdotes related to the Conference you would like to share?

I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude to TAC for their generous support, which allowed me to attend this conference. It was truly an eye-opening experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the event, where I had the chance to learn, connect with others, and grow both personally and professionally. I eagerly anticipate the possibility of attending more conferences in the future if the opportunity arises!