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Jennifer Case, Ph.D.

  • Department Head
Jenni Case
349 Goodwin Hall (MC 0218)
635 Prices Fork Rd
Blacksburg, VA 24061


Ph.D. Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia, 2001
M.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, 2009
Higher Diploma of Education, University of Cape Town, 1991
M.Ed. Science Education, University of Leeds, UK, 1994
B.S. (Hons.) Chemistry, Stellenbosch University, 1990
B.S. Physics & Chemistry, Stellenbosch University, 1989

Research Interests

  • Sociology of higher education with a special focus on engineering education
  • Student learning and university teaching
  • Knowledge and curriculum, sociology of higher education
  • Education research methodology

Research Statement

I have been researching student learning in higher education for over two decades, and much of my empirical work is with students studying engineering. This can be a challenging degree program, and I am interested to research teaching approaches that foster good learning outcomes. I am also interested in engineering curriculum structures; how these build the knowledge and dispositions that engineers will need in the workplace.

Student learning research tends to use theories and methodologies informed by cognitive psychology, but in my work, I have also explored the use of sociological perspectives to obtain different insights as to what is going on. I  am interested in the interplay between the structures of university programs and the development of student agency through the degree.


Jenni Case is Head and Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech.  Her research on the student experience of learning, focusing mainly on science and engineering education, has been widely published.  She is a coordinating editor for the international journal Higher Education, a co-editor for the Routledge/SRHE series Research into Higher Education, subject editor for the IChemE journal Education for Chemical Engineers, and associate editor for the European Journal of Engineering Education.  

She spent 21 years in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT), teaching in its undergraduate program, as well as leading in program administration and curriculum reform.  In 2011 she was a Mandela Mellon fellow at Harvard University. She was the founding president (2010-2013) of the South African Society for Engineering Education (SASEE). She attained full professor status at UCT in 2012.  She took up the position at Virginia Tech in 2017 and teaches in both the undergraduate and graduate programs. She is an honorary professor at the University of Cape Town.

Selected Awards & Honors

  • President’s Award from the National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa, 2006

  • Distinguished Teachers’ Award, UCT, 2007

  • Elected Member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf), 2009

  • Excellence in Teaching & Learning Award, Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South African (HELTASA), 2013 

  • Meritorious Book Award, UCT, 2015

Recent Publications

  • Case, J. M., Fraser, D. M., Kumar, A., & Itika, A. (2016). The significance of context for curriculum development in engineering education:  A case study across three African countries. European Journal for Engineering Education, 41(3), 279-292.

  • Case, J. M., & Marshall, D. (2016). Bringing together knowledge and capabilities: A case study of engineering graduates. Higher Education, 71(6)

  • Heydenrych, H., & Case, J. M. (2015). Academic development in the mainstream:  A case study in an undergraduate engineering programme in South Africa. South African Journal of Higher Education, 29(5), 179-200. 

  • von Blottnitz, H., Case, J. M., & Fraser, D. M. (2015). Sustainable development at the core of undergraduate engineering curriculum reform: A new introductory course in chemical engineering Journal of Cleaner Production(106), 300-307. 

  • Baron, D., Bestbier, A., Case, J. M., & Collier-Reed, B. (2016). Investigating the effect of a backchannel on university classroom interactions: A mixed-method case study. Computers & Education, 94, 61-76. 

  • Case, J. M. (2016). Journeys to meaning-making: A longitudinal study of self-authorship amongst young South African engineering graduates. Journal of College Student Development, 57(7), 863-879. 

  • Case, J. M. (2016). Re-imagining the curriculum in a postcolonial space: Engaging the public good purposes of Higher Education in South Africa. Journal for New Generation Sciences, 14(3), 22-33. 

  • Case, J. M., Heydenrych, H., Kotta, L., Marshall, D., McKenna, S., & Williams, K. (2017). From contradictions to complementarities: A social realist analysis of the evolution of academic development within a department. Studies in Higher Education, 42(2), 278-291. 

  • Case, J. M. (2017). The historical evolution of engineering degrees: Competing stakeholders, contestation over ideas, and coherence across national borders. European Journal for Engineering Education, 42(6), 974-986. 

  • Ashwin, P., & Case, J. M. (Eds.). (2018). Higher education pathways: South African undergraduate education and the public good. Cape Town: African Minds.

  • Case, J. M., Marshall, D., McKenna, S., & Mogashana, D. (2018). Going to university: The influence of higher education on the lives of young South Africans. Cape Town: African Minds.

  • Heydenrych, H., & Case, J. M. (2018). Researching graduate destinations using LinkedIn: an exploratory analysis of South African chemical engineering graduates. European Journal for Engineering Education, 43(5), 693-705.