A novel, creative program to develop competence pillars around methods of social inquiry, knowledge of human development, and technical context expertise. Build on these competence pillars to craft a PhD journey along two tracks: (i) generate new knowledge about learning and formation in engineering contexts to transform engineering education for the 21st century. (ii) to create new empirical understandings of engineering work in complex, cross-discipline, cross-domain settings to become a change agent in modern engineering practice.

Apply social inquiry methods, human development theories, and technical expertise to create new knowledge about learning in engineering and work in modern engineering contexts that will transform 21st century engineering education and practice.

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The Area of Emphasis in Engineering Formation and Transformative Practice prepares graduates for broad practice and academic applications at the intersection of human and technical systems. Through an innovative fusion of methods of social inquiry, knowledge of human development, and tools for positive change embedded in a context of deep technical competence, graduates are enabled to provide transformative leadership in a variety of educational, technical, and organizational settings. Upon graduation, students will be able to apply their unique skill set to a diverse range of contexts, including formal and informal education environments, engineering practice, learning organizations, social entrepreneurship, customer discovery, leadership, and policy.

Engineering Formation and Transformative Practice builds on disciplinary strengths in engineering education research, the interdisciplinary breadth of a broad graduate course offering in a major liberal arts university, and the technical context of being embedded in the innovative education and research mission of our College of Engineering. This unique setting provides students with access to a broad range of content, variety of faculty expertise, and diverse application settings as the foundation for shaping their individual programs of study and research trajectories.


Candidates for the Engineering (Ph.D.) with an Area of Emphasis in Engineering Formation and Transformative Practice are expected to acquire the skills, knowledge, and orientation that enable them to make creative and original contributions to their discipline at the national or international level. The philosophy of the area of emphasis is grounded in a diversity of possible pathways that rely on students’ agency and initiative in seeking out relevant coursework and interdisciplinary faculty expertise to support their chosen research project.

Area of Emphasis Description

The area of emphasis comprises two broad pathways that frame the flexible and context-appropriate development of the individual plan of study and research.

  • Engineering Formation focuses on the complex processes that underpin the learning and professional socialization of engineers across the k through gray spectrum. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, questions of teaching and learning in university, k-gray, and informal settings; development of technical competence and broad professional attributes such as creativity, empathy, and ethical reasoning; the innovative use of technology in education; and issues of underrepresentation and inclusiveness in engineering.
  • Engineering Epistemologies focuses on investigating and understanding engineering knowing and doing in contemporary engineering practice settings. Areas of investigation include, but are not limited to, engineering work at the intersection of organizational practices, disciplinary domains, and cutting-edge technological developments; professional development in interdisciplinary and inter-professional spaces; and collaboration, innovation and cross-domain integration that characterize engineering work in the context of 21st century, grand challenges.

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