Date of Award

5-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Advisor

Schmalz, Dorothy L.

Committee Member

Baldwin , Elizabeth

Committee Member

Tucker , Teresa W.

Abstract

Summer camps employ over one million staff members every summer, most of whom fall between the age range of 18-25 (ACA, 2012). Surveys done by the American Camp Association show that approximately 50% of camps have a 48% rate of return for counselors each summer, yet little research has been conducted to focus on what impacts staff retention (ACA, 2011). The theory of place attachment proposes that people form and retain bonds to physical locations by means of place dependence, place identity, social bonding, and affective attachment (Kyle, Mowen, & Tarrant, 2004; Milligan, 1998; Scannell & Gifford, 2010). Place attachment literature has been used to explain workplace attachment and employee retention in other settings, but it has never been applied to organized camps (Inalhan & Finch, 2004; Pretty, Chipuer, & Bramston, 2003). The purpose of this study was to examine the connection between a counselor's place attachment to camp and his or her intent to return to the same camp for another summer of employment. An online survey was administered to camp counselors who worked at various camps during the summer of 2012. This survey consisted of participant demographics, camp experience, place attachment, and his/her intent to return. The results demonstrated that place attachment to camp was related to a counselor's intent to return to camp the next summer, and a relationship was found between the number of years a counselor worked at camp and his/her place attachment to camp. Age and gender did not to play a role in place attachment or intent to return to camp. The uniqueness of the environment of camp may explain why place dependence and affective attachment are formed. Place identity in counselors could be a result of personal growth experienced at camp because of the unique role that being a camp counselor provides to emerging adults. While social bonding did not have as strong an impact in this study as expected, previous research on the social aspect of counselors provides direction for further research on this area and the other sub-dimensions of place attachment. Future research on how to facilitate place attachment through involvement of counselors in and out of camp could provide deeper insight to counselor retention and the growth of camp as an industry.

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