Add ‘political campaign manager’ to this MEngCEM’s repertoire

Profile: Adam Hasham (MEngCEM candidate)

Adam Hasham is a Masters of Engineering in Cities Engineering and Management (MEngCEM) candidate, needing just one more course to finish his degree. During the pandemic he has worked on the city’s cycling infrastructure, ActiveTO, and more. Now he’s taken on a new role as an election campaign manager for a provincial candidate, hoping to make further impact on policy and our infrastructure design.

Adam Hasham (MEngCEM candidate)


Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Adam Hasham and am finishing up my MEngCEM at U of T this year.

I originally started an MASc in Civil Engineering, as I was interested in whether Uber had an effect on public transit use, and then, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, that research was no longer viable. I switched into the MEngCEM, which I was pretty happy to do, because it’s a great program.

And I’m now the campaign manager for Chi Nguyen’s campaign. She’s the Ontario Liberal candidate in Spadina-Fort York.

Part of the reason I was excited about this CEM program is because there is a big public policy focus, certainly a pretty big data focus, but also a big policy and economics focus that I was really looking forward to putting into practice. It’s great to be running a campaign in downtown Toronto where all of those city building problems are front and centre with a candidate who really is steeped in the same kind of city building expertise that so many of my classmates are.

You have a history of advocating for cycling infrastructure in the city, and other multimodal transit, and accessibility.
Yes, I led some of the ActiveTO evaluations during the pandemic for the City of Toronto, working with Park People and the Centre for Active Transportation. I wrote the major lane closures evaluation – those are the Lake Shore Boulevard lane closures, as well as some others around the city. I led the Yonge Street evaluation of the new bike lanes and some others over the past couple of years too.

I’ve been working on urban issues for a long time. I used to be a director at a company called Mass LBP that ran citizens assemblies on issues like infrastructure funding for Metrolinx, about where we should put supervised injection sites and how to manage those types of public infrastructure, whether they’re transportation or health care related.

I’ve been working in this community for a long time on these sorts of urban issues.

Increasingly, engineers have, as you mentioned, become more involved with recommendations for policy. They have the data and know what is working, what’s not working, and how things can be improved. Now you have a chance to directly shape the policy through a political office.
Actually, the candidate who I’m working for, Chi, helped write the housing and the transportation pieces of the Ontario Liberal platform. I got to advise her and the party as they met with stakeholders. The thinking was how can we turn some of those learnings, and some of that data, into policies that affect people’s lives.

You might have seen the $40 metropass and $1.00 transit rides as a really big price signal to get people back on transit after the pandemic.

There isn’t enough space for us all to be in private vehicles anymore, and there never was. There are engineers at the [Ontario Liberal] Party who are leading the thought change – actually one of the main policy guys I talk to every day is a mechanical engineer. It’s sort of the engineering approach to breaking down problems – whether they’re technical problems or policy problems – has been really valuable.

Sometimes engineers get flack for not being able to communicate what’s necessary, but I think engineers can play a really strong role there, especially at the provincial level, where so many decisions government makes are about infrastructure. As long as we can translate this work into the explaining the effect it’ll have on people’s daily lives, which so much of transportation and civil engineering is, I think there’s a stronger role for engineers in policymaking going forward.

You mentioned you haven’t yet completed your MEngCEM. Has the pandemic has made things a little bit tougher to schedule and complete?
Yes. I’m supposed to be working with Dr. Eric Miller on some research around accessibility to finish up my last course. The election is delaying that a little bit, but I really have just one more course to finish up.

U of T has been great. For example, through one of my cycling courses, we’ve been working on
an autoethnography of cycling experiences in Toronto for newcomers and children of immigrants. Learning to cycle and navigate this city is very different for people who have different cultural contexts.

Have you been able to directly apply what you’ve been learning through your MEngCEM formal education directly into the real world? Perhaps in real time due to the swift changes during the pandemic?
Yes, most definitely. The COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for everybody to get involved in small ways. And there were a lot of engineers who realized the way we get around our cities is really vital to how we move forward, how we tackle the climate crisis.

When it comes to the election and politics, people think [political] parties are these nebulous entities. They’re not. If you go to a riding association meeting, you’ll realize it’s maybe 20 or 30 people who just care about their community. They can have a really outsized impact on policy development.

I got involved with Chi’s campaign last summer when she was running for the nomination. We used to work at the same company many years ago. I found it very easy to fall into the role and everybody was looking for a breadth of expertise, whether engineering or health care. There’s always a way for people to get involved and people, engineers in particular, have so much to bring. They shouldn’t be nervous about getting involved in politics.

Did you, while at U of T, have any favorite places you liked to visit or hang out?
It was great to be back on campus after spending a year on online. I have always been partial to Engineering Alley because it’s the place where you find your community during the day, and some of those outdoor plazas or spaces between the buildings are where we spent a lot of time working on our assignments, but also just getting to know each other and getting to know each other’s interests.

I did love walking to Kensington Market after class. And there’s a great cafe called Cafe Pamenar, where I spent a lot of my time before the pandemic. During school it was great to be able to hang out on their patio a little bit as things started to open up.

But the nice thing was that U of T is such a diverse place that I found all sorts of other corners of the city that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I did my undergrad in Montreal, and it wasn’t nearly as diverse as a U of T, so I was really happy to come back home to Toronto and be able to experience the diversity of our multicultural city.

Do you have any fond memories of certain classes or certain profs?
The nice thing about this CEM program is that it’s a small cohort, and you get to know the professors really well. So, knowing, and having worked with Dr. Eric Miller before the program and then realizing he was just very accessible, despite having a wealth of knowledge, was really valuable. And if you know anyone involved with Transportation at U of T, you’ll know that almost every professor has been through a PhD with Dr. Miller himself.

And also Dr. Mark Fox. He was really great at making some of the big data problems really, really accessible or really practical. We got to work on real problems, some of them with the City of Toronto, some of them with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and really put into practice what this emerging idea of a urban data science really is.


By Phill Snel

Adam Hasham (MEngCEM candidate)