A unique Energy Engineering degree opens doors, develops leaders and, sometimes, reignites a dream

As life’s most transformative journeys sometimes go, Margaret Kangas’s path has been marked by an astonishingly diverse set of experiences — from travel and adventure, to a devastating twist, to an exuberant arrival at an entirely unexpected destination. 

A little more than three years ago, Kangas was living in Australia with her husband, Tony, and working as a chartered professional accountant. Today, she’s widowed, living in Calgary and poised to embark on a dramatically different career path. Remarkably, given her recent loss, Kangas has cultivated new resilience as a student in one of the country’s most rigorous undergraduate programs.

Unique in Western Canada, UCalgary’s three-year-old Energy Engineering degree builds on students’ technology background from approved polytechnic institute programs and is available only to students who have already successfully completed two years of technical engineering training from SAIT, NAIT or a parallel institution. A subsequent 24 consecutive months of intensive study at UCalgary then earns them their Energy Engineering degree. It’s not an easy route (there’s no summer break and some semesters call for a six-course load) but, if you ask Kangas, it’s well worth the effort.

While working for an offshore drilling outfit in Perth, Western Australia, Kangas became increasingly intrigued by the engineering — rather than the accounting — side of things. She and Tony subsequently returned to Calgary so Kangas could pursue SAIT’s Petroleum Engineering Technology diploma. Part way through her first year, she attended a presentation about UCalgary’s new “2 + 2” Energy Engineering degree.

There is tremendous demand for a program like this — it’s a made-in-Alberta solution.

— Dean Bill Rosenhart

“Calgary really respects the technologist — this is the place to be for that work,” says Kangas. “But, when I learned about this program, I leapt at it. This degree seems like a way to open more doors, faster.”

Schulich School of Engineering Dean Bill Rosehart, PhD, confirms her thinking. “There is tremendous demand for a program like this,” he says. “Energy Engineering is a made-in-Alberta solution that shows we’re committed to helping future engineers become leaders in Alberta and in Canada.” 

In February 2017, Kangas’ husband passed away suddenly, weeks before she finished her diploma. She credits camaraderie with her classmates, support from UCalgary and SAIT, and a motivating entrance scholarship for giving her the strength to continue and succeed as she has. “It’s not easy — I got 32 per cent on the first quiz and I thought, well, there goes that dream,” she says with a wry smile. “But I finished the class with an A — the transition from one program to the next really teaches us resilience.” 

Clearly, Kangas started the program with some of her own. “I definitely had the desire and the motivation,” she says. But, she adds with characteristic optimism, “I also had the good fortune of meeting supportive people to help me along the way.”

A philanthropic gift from Teine Energy will create a dedicated homeroom — currently under construction — for the Energy Engineering cohort, providing collaborative breakout rooms, quiet study space, and multimedia presentation equipment for enhanced experiential teaching and learning.

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The Shell Experiential Energy Learning (SEEL) Program provides funding to University of Calgary undergraduates in all disciplines for field trips, conferences, special projects and other activities focused on sustainable energy, environment and economy.