PhD Engineering - Engineering Education and Transformative Practice Emphasis

PhD Engineering - Engineering Education and Transformative Practice Emphasis

Area of Emphasis Description

In a globally connected and rapidly changing world, engineers need to work across national, domain, and disciplinary boundaries to effectively address complex, socio-technical challenges. To fully assume this expanding responsibility of the engineering profession, we must transform the ways engineering students are educated at the undergraduate level and also equip future engineers at the graduate level with the skills and orientations to become boundary spanners and change leaders. The emphasis area Engineering Education and Transformative Practice addresses these related challenges in a novel, interdisciplinary PhD program.

This emphasis area within our PhD in Engineering 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 Education 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.

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 Education 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.

Transformative Practice 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.

Admission to the Emphasis

Students holding a B.S. degree or M.S. in engineering from an ABET accredited program or a B.S. or M.S. in a related field from an accredited institution are invited to apply for admission. The admission requirements to the Ph.D. in Engineering program apply.


Candidates for the Ph.D. degree with an emphasis in Engineering Education and Transformative Practice are expected to acquire the skills, knowledge, and orientations 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 trajectory.

Requirements for the area of emphasis include a minimum of 73 credit hours in the student’s program of study beyond the B.S. degree as follows:

• Focus area courses (6 per area)* 18
• Elective course work* 18
• Graduate seminar 1
• Doctoral research (9000 or 9010) 33
• Doctoral dissertation (9300) 3
*Across selected courses a minimum of 16 hours of 8000 or 9000 level courses and an additional 4 hours of courses open to only graduate students is required.

A thesis master's degree from an accredited university may be accepted for up to 30 credit hours, in which case a minimum of 42 credit hours of approved course work, research and dissertation beyond the M.S. degree is required as follows:

• Focus area courses (3 per area)* 9
• Elective Course work* 6
• Graduate seminar 1
• Doctoral research (9000 or 9010) 23
• Doctoral dissertation (9300) 3
*Across selected courses a minimum of 15 hours of 8000 or 9000 level courses is required.


The recommended course offering is organized in three focus areas. Individual programs of study will be developed collaboratively between the student and their major professor (see Course List with examples of courses in each focus area).

Engineering Education Core
The core engineering education courses provide an understanding of the landscape of this globally connected discipline. Individual course offerings focus on theories of learning and human development in engineering; contemporary issues in engineering formation; and research and evaluation methods in engineering education and practice contexts.

Social and Educational Inquiry Methods
The research methods courses draw on the broad offering of courses across the University of Georgia, including the College of Education. In line with the student's research project, these courses can comprise offerings in the qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods areas.

Application and Context
Course selection in the Application and Context area draws on the full breadth of graduate course offering in technical and non-technical fields that provide specific content, theory, or methods to support and ground the students' chosen research trajectory.