Kirsten Davis

Assistant Professor of Engineering Education
Mailing Addresses


Menomonie, WI


Ph.D., Engineering Education, Virginia Tech
M.S., Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech
M.A.Ed., Higher Education, Virginia Tech
B.S., Engineering & Management, Clarkson University

Research Interests

Kirsten's research is inspired by her industry experience and observations of the disconnect between what is taught in the engineering classroom and what happens in the engineering workplace. Engineering programs typically focus on closed-ended math and science problems while real engineering problems are interdisciplinary, open-ended, and involve working with people from different backgrounds. Kirsten's research addresses this disconnect by exploring educational experiences that better align with the realities of engineering work and identifying methods for teaching and assessing professional skills that will prepare engineering students to succeed in the work environment.

A central focus of Kirsten's work is pursuing intentional design and assessment of global engineering programs (e.g., study abroad, research abroad, and global experiences on home campuses). She seeks to understand how aspects of global program design are related to the experiences and learning outcomes of program participants. Kirsten also studies student development through other experiential learning opportunities, such as internships, research experiences, and service learning. In particular, she explores how these experiences can help students learn to solve ill-structured problems and integrate the social and technical aspects of engineering problems. Related to this work, Kirsten's research also investigates approaches for teaching and assessing systems thinking skills. Across all her projects, Kirsten seeks to connect educational research to educational practice and employs a variety of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches.

Visit Davis' research group at: Global Learning Initiatives for the Development of Engineers (GLIDE) Research Group

Selected Publications

Davis, K. A., Deters, J. R., Ozkan, D., Davis, J. C., & Murzi, H. G. (2022). Exploring the process and outcomes of leading a study abroad program using real-time perspectives. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 34(4), 351–381.

Davis, K. A., Grote, D. M., Mahmoudi, H., Perry, L., Ghaffarzadegan, N., Grohs, J. R., Hosseinichimeh, N., Knight, D. B., & Triantis, K. (2023). Comparing self-report assessments and scenario-based assessments of systems thinking competence. Journal of Science Education and Technology.

Davis, K. A., Jesiek, B. K., & Knight, D. B. (2023). Exploring scenario-based assessment of students’ global engineering competency: Building evidence of validity of a China-based situational judgement test. Journal of Engineering Education.

Davis, K. A., & Knight, D. B. (2021). Comparing students’ study abroad experiences and outcomes across global contexts. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 83, 114–127.

Davis, K. A., & Knight, D. B. (2023). Assessing learning processes rather than outcomes: Using critical incidents to explore student learning abroad. Higher Education, 85, 341–357.


  • 2020-present Assistant Professor, School of Engineering Education, Purdue University
  • 2016-2020 Graduate Assistant, Department of Engineering Education, Virginia Tech
  • 2014-2016 Graduate Assistant, College of Engineering, Virginia Tech
  • 2012-2014 Analytics Engineer, GE Transportation
  • 2010-2012 Information Technology Leadership Program, GE Transportation

Fun Facts

I love to travel and learn about other cultures. In my free time, I like to read fiction, bake, and am currently learning how to garden.