Ben Sey, Dean, School of Energy< More Stories
“I came to Canada with one little suitcase and $250 in cash. I had no idea how I was going to pay my tuition but I came anyway,” recalls Sey. Fortunately the university had funding in place for Sey as he began work on his master’s. While working on his thesis, he was accepted into a doctoral program at McGill University. He remembers his eventful drive from Edmonton to Montreal in late December 2002 to start the program.
“I bought an old 1992 Ford station wagon from a friend for $500 and set out for Montreal on Dec. 29, 2002. I’d only had my licence for a few months and, unsurprisingly, I hit the ditch twice. That was my introduction to winter driving in Canada,” recalls Sey. It took him four days to travel to Montreal but the long drive gave him an appreciation for the scale and beauty of Canada.
For the next six months he divided his time between completing his thesis for his master’s in soil science, taking courses for his PhD in renewable resources, and working part-time as a teaching assistant at McGill. He completed his master’s in 2003 and his doctorate in 2006.
Sey and his wife Abena, also a member of McGill’s Class of 2006, moved to Alberta soon after completing their degrees to pursue their careers. “Alberta was booming at the time. So we headed west to Edmonton with no jobs and no place to stay,” says Sey.
They both had a hard time finding jobs. Sey cut keys in the hardware department of Home Depot and Abena served coffee at Tim Hortons. “It was a very humbling experience for both of us but we needed those jobs to survive,” says Sey. Months later he worked at a call centre that offered health benefits. During that time he approached a professor at the University of Alberta about possible openings at his alma mater.
“While there weren’t any positions at the university, I was directed to Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (AAFRD),” says Sey. In November 2006 he was hired by AAFRD as a soil quality agrologist, a position that launched his career. He’s since worked at Syncrude Canada Ltd. as a senior environmental specialist, Rescan Environmental Services as a soil scientist, and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. as reclamation specialist. He joined Lakeland College in October.
Sey smiles when he thinks about the variety of occupations he’s had in his life, such as teaching high school chemistry and Grade one as part of his national service requirements in Ghana, instructing labs at McGill, and being dropped off in the Arctic by a helicopter to do site assessments. There have been many career highlights such as serving as the co-chair of the Best Management Practices (BMP) sub-committee of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association, tasked with producing Alberta’s first industry-wide set of reclamation BMP guidelines for the oil sands industry. He also developed a soil management system for Canadian Natural’s Horizon mine and, at AAFRD, helped create a manual of statistical methods for analyzing research data.
“My background gives me a very broad perspective to draw from as dean,” he says. “I’m passionate about education and I’m very excited to be working at Lakeland College.”
Photo: Ben Sey is the new dean of a new school at Lakeland College: the School of Energy (formerly the School of Energy and Environmental Sciences).