Kirsten Davis

Assistant Professor, 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.

Selected Publications

Davis, K. A., Taylor, A. R., Reeping, D., Murzi, H. G., & Knight D. B. (2020). Experiencing cross-cultural communication on a home campus: Exploring student experiences in a cultural simulation activity. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 30(4), 187-214.

Davis, K. A., & Knight, D. B. (2019). Becoming a Researcher: A Narrative Analysis of U.S. Students' Experiences in Australia. Paper presented at the 2019 Research in Engineering Education Symposium.

Davis, K. A., & Knight D. B. (2018). Impact of a global engineering course on student cultural intelligence and cross-cultural communication. Journal of International Engineering Education, 1(1), Article 4.

Davis, K. A. & Knight, D. B. (2017). Exploring the Impacts of a First-Year Engineering Study Abroad Program on Subsequent College Experiences. 2017 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference. (Best Paper Finalist)


  • 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.