News and Events

Power engineering student thankful for opportunity

Challis Elkink feels like one of the most fortunate people in the world.

March 13, 2014
Written by Ryan Dahlman, managing editor for the Prairie Post
Featured in the March, 12, 2014 online edition.

As the only first-year female power engineering student at the Medicine Hat College, the mature student has already enjoyed a successful stint in the early part of her career in marketing, sales and communications.

Even though the Medicine Hat resident and native of Swift Current was good at her job and enjoyed it, she wanted to do something she loved. Engineering and the trade fields surrounding it were enticing — enter the Medicine Hat College.

While she was looking forward to the challenge she still needed to pay for it. She would work and hopefully get by and perhaps she would get some scholarships.

Elkink earned some scholarships and was in pretty decent shape when she got an unexpected call from the college.

She was told all of those scholarships were being taken away. Jennifer Kerslake, community relations officer for the college, delivered the news.

“They called me up and I was sitting at my desk,” explains Elkink. “They said ‘we have some bad news, we can’t give the scholarships to you.’ So I’m thinking right away, ‘OK, what am I going to do?’”

But, the elimination of the scholarships was for a good reason. Because of the generosity of CF Industries Elkink would be receiving a full scholarship. The company supplied a large donation to the scholarship program.

Elkink says her tuition, textbooks (which for engineering are quite expensive) and some other costs are covered for a full two years.

“Following extensive data analysis in conjunction with discussions with Alberta Boiler Safety Association and Medicine Hat College, we have undertaken an approach to encourage under-represented groups to consider power engineering as a career,” said Michelle Amos, human resources co-ordinator at CF in a statement. “We are proud of our continuing partnership with Medicine Hat College and many of its programs.”

“CF has been wonderful,” adds Elkink who is extremely grateful. “I was totally shocked and the way I found out, those naughty people (with a chuckle). It’s pretty incredible. I can focus on my studies. It’s encouraging to to be able to study something I love.”

“The (other scholarship) money was reallocated to others,” adds Connie Cash, who works with the college’s scholarships, bursaries and loans department in the college’s student financial aid office. “It’s fun to be able to give the news to nice people (like Elkink).”

Elkink is originally from Swift Current where she grew up on a ranch. She moved to Medicine Hat at the age of 10. Her father worked in petroleum-based consulting and that’s where she developed the passion for engineering-type professions.

She would get up and do work with her dad’s employer as a job shadow. She would have a day off and would use that day to get up early in the morning and do work at oil sites. It was dirty, difficult and in the winter cold work. She loved every second of it and never forgot about it.

Elkink was excited to learn a trade and was excited about coming back to the Medicine Hat College. She had studied at Briercrest Bible College in Caronport Sask., before taking pre-dentistry in Medicine Hat. She also travelled to Europe, but wound up earning a degree in Commerce and Marketing from the University of Saskatchewan.

“For 13 years, you’re pushing for university. Get your degree and that was going to get you a job anywhere you wanted,” explains Elkink. “So at the age of 18, I decided even though I liked where I was living and (what I was) doing, there was a lot of positive things happening in the oil and gas industry I knew I wasn’t doing what I loved ... I always liked thinking outside of the box.

“Commerce was interesting. I remember watching commercials in class and trying to understand an organization’s behaviour, but you rely on each other more. There’s a lot of teamwork involved,” explains Elkink who cannot say enough compliments about the level and quality of instruction at the college.

“Here in engineering it’s different. If you don’t understand something, it’s up to you to figure it out. You’re the one who needs to learn it.”

Elkink adds her fellow engineering students have been co-operative and supportive. She’s excited for the future and says power engineering is an exciting field. As she has done her entire life, she will work hard to live up to all the expectations of her from those around her and most importantly from herself.

“It’s that ol’ Alberta spirit, ‘you just gotta go do it,’” Elkink explains. “If you’ve got to do something, go do it well.”

For more information about the power engineering program or scholarship application process visit