Date of Award

8-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Advisor

Bixler, Robert D

Committee Member

Schmalz , Dorothy L

Committee Member

Baldwin , Elizabeth

Committee Member

Pury , Cynthia

Abstract

To address the shortage of people seeking to fill employment vacancies, the land management agencies are using the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and internships as a means of recruiting the next generation of leaders. Yet little research has been conducted on internships in cultural and natural heritage resource parks. This study used a two-phase linear exploratory method to investigate the experiences of cultural and natural heritage resource interns. Additionally, the study sought to determine if and how internships shape vocational, recreational, social and personal identities concerning parks and protected areas. Using significant life experiences, environmental socialization and emerging adulthood theories, the first phase consisted of interviewing 25 supervisors and interns who have completed their internship within the past year. During the second phase, a survey instrument was constructed using the themes from the interviews and given to alumni of the SCA as well as alumni from Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department at a university in the southeast (N=256). Results indicate that memorable childhood experiences in nature are important for recreation and environmental identity but not as necessary for career identity. In contrast, quality internships, mentors and career development play a key role in career identity crystallization during emerging adulthood. This understanding of the impacts that occur during the internship experience helps in judging for whom and in what context internships produced a lifestyle revolving around cultural and natural heritage resources.

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