Convocation ‘22: Jason Tao, BSc, Civil and Environmental Engineering Co-op

Donna McKinnon - 06 June 2022

Leading with the heart

A piece of advice that Jason Tao offers to new students is a philosophy that has guided his entire academic journey — get involved.

Jason’s advocacy efforts on behalf of the engineering student community was already established when the pandemic hit, but it was during this time that his ability to bring people together even under the most challenging circumstances became more widely known.

Among his many initiatives, from serving as the president of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Students' Society to co-organizing the Quarantine Olympics, Jason’s generosity, tenacity and dedication earned him the reputation as an incredible community builder and leader who has transformed the student experience not only for his own graduating class, but for future classes.

Congratulations Jason!

What led you to pick the U of A for your studies?
I chose the University of Alberta as I am originally from Edmonton; I like to be close to home.

What is one of your favourite memories from your time at the U of A?
My favourite memory would be participating in Battle of the Bands for the Engineering Students’ Society GEER Week. I had the chance to play for the civil and environmental engineering band and it was a blast!

Did you take on any leadership roles while you were a student?
I served as the president of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Students' Society (CEESS) from 2021-2022. My focus as president was to rebuild our engineering student community, more specifically through events, initiatives, and advocacy. Together with the Civil Club, we organized initiatives such as Speed Friending, The Hard Hat Ceremony, Research Panel, Alumni Student Night, and much more. Furthermore, we've advocated on behalf of civil and environmental engineering students for the departmental curriculum review process. The Civil Club's mix of academic, professional, and social events has helped rebuild the student experience and given the club the necessary momentum to serve the community next year.

Did you face any significant obstacles or challenges during your program?
I believe my biggest obstacle was being too hard on myself. Oftentimes, I would hold myself to unrealistic expectations. My solution was to make more realistic goals, and to also have smarter goal setting. Furthermore, I would also set a timer for 3-5 minutes to write about my emotions. After the timer goes off, I would make a conscious decision on how to move forward.

What advice do you have for current and future students?
I have three pieces of advice for current and future students: get involved, setbacks are okay, be yourself.

For my first piece of advice, getting involved is a good way of meeting new people and making friends! Not only does it help contribute to your campus community, but it also develops your leadership skills. I have been involved with organizations such as the Civil and Environmental Engineering Students' Society, Engineering Students' Society (ESS), and Safewalk; I've made many lifelong friends through volunteering, as well as having an impact on my community.

Regarding setbacks, don't be discouraged if things don't go your way. Setbacks are a part of the journey, and how you overcome them is what truly matters. There will be times of stress, doubt, and uncertainty, but know that everything happens for a reason. Always keep the 'big picture' in mind.

For my last piece of advice, be yourself. Focus less on what others think, and focus more on yourself. Out of every 100 people you meet, one person will dislike you; that's okay. Don't be someone who you're not, just to please them. Focus on bringing happiness to those who support you. Throughout my undergraduate, I've always been a people pleaser so this piece of advice was hardest for me to accept.

How do you plan on celebrating convocation?
I will be taking a vacation to Europe! I'll be visiting countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. I'm ecstatic as this is a well needed vacation, and a chance to practice my German.

What's next after graduation?
I will be taking on a full time position as an Engineer in Training (EIT) through the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA). My goal as an EIT and future professional engineer is to make meaningful contributions to the community through solving technical problems, and innovating.