UC launches engineering education graduate degrees

Distinctive program aims to advance the body of knowledge about educating engineers

The University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science is launching new engineering education graduate degrees, one of just a handful of such degree programs in the country.  

The engineering education graduate program, which offers both a master of science and a doctor of philosophy path, encompasses the research and study of how to best educate engineering students at all levels, from grade schoolers through college students and even workforce development.  

“While faculty in a college of engineering typically consider themselves practitioners of engineering education, they are typically not trained to make new discoveries that advance our understanding of the engineering education learning system,” said P.K. Imbrie, professor and head of the Department of Engineering Education at UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS).  

“The goal for this advanced degree is to create a new breed of engineering educators — individuals who can initiate and nurture discoveries and innovations that inform an engineering education system that can dynamically and rapidly adapt to meet the changing needs of society and the nation’s economy, is equally accessible to all members of society, and constantly improves the quality and diversity of graduates ready to enter the technical workforce and evolve their knowledge thereafter,” Imbrie said. 

Students will graduate from the programs with deep expertise in theories related to the teaching and learning of engineering, as well as qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. In parallel, they will advance their expertise within a technical engineering discipline of their choice.   

The goal for this advanced degree is to create a new breed of engineering educators.

P.K. Imbrie Head of the Department of Engineering Education at UC

Ultimately, the goal of each of the programs is to develop a student’s research and research-to-practice acumen by having them specialize in one of three focus areas: higher education in engineering, engineering education in pre-K-12 grades, or engineering industry and workforce development. 

Teri J. Murphy, UC professor of engineering education, further explained these three focus areas.  

The higher education focus will train the next generation of professors who research the teaching, learning and culture of undergraduate engineering programs, Murphy said. 

With an increased push in the educational world to incorporate engineering design thinking into early STEM programming, the pre-K-12 pathway prepares graduate students to do research into how younger students learn to think like engineers or how middle schoolers decide to pursue engineering, for example. 

The third pathway focuses graduate students’ attention on adult learners in industry. 

“For that focus area—and this is really new—we want to prepare graduate students to do workforce development and to research in industry. For example, how do you help employees stay current, how do adults in full-time engineering employment learn, and how do we build programs for them?” Murphy said.  

The new engineering education degrees also include an experiential learning component which builds off of the college’s renowned cooperative education (co-op) program. Master’s and Ph.D. students will have a mentored teaching experience, design and implement a Pre-K-12 learning activity, or complete a graduate co-op with a company. 

The program can prepare students for such careers as a university professor in engineering, teacher or administrator in pre-K-12 schools or programs (the graduate degrees do not include teaching licensure), workforce development positions, and policymaking or leadership roles.  

Jutshi Agarwal is among the first to pursue a Ph.D. in engineering education at UC. Agarwal discovered a passion for teaching while completing her master’s in aerospace engineering at the university. She is also the president of the recently launched student chapter of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). 

“I have been teaching informally all my life, with younger students, classmates, and as a tutor, and now teaching the undergraduate engineering fundamentals and basic courses,” Agarwal said. “When I found out about the new Ph.D. program and the idea of doing research into how to make teaching better, it seemed like the perfect fit for me.” 

For more information

Contact P.K. Imbrie, head of the Department of Engineering Education at (513) 556-3171 or imbriepk@ucmail.uc.edu

Featured image at top: Engineering Research Center. Photo/Corrie Mayer/CEAS Marketing.