Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Committee Chair/Advisor

Anderson, Denise

Committee Member

Powell , Gwynn

Committee Member

Schmalz , Dorothy


A better understanding of the staff experience may provide camps with the knowledge necessary to more effectively recruit and retain staff. Current literature finds that working at a camp can stimulate the cognitive and social development of staff yet there are unanswered questions about specific aspects of camp that stimulate this development. Exploring the life stage of emerging adulthood in which counselors fall can provide clues into their identity developmental needs. Emerging adults often experiment with identity through different work roles (Arnett, 2004). The purpose of this research is to gain a richer understanding of the camp counselor experience and examine if camps provide an environment for developmental growth of staff members consistent with the unique aspects of the developmental stage of emerging adults. The experience of camp counselors was investigated through Moustakas's (1994) transcendental phenomenological method. Data was collected from eight female camp counselors through a semi-structured, one-on-one interview process. Data was by identifying significant statements and clustering those statements into themes. The results of the phenomenological analysis produced a structure of the live experience of camp counselors. Three themes with sub-themes emerged: 1) career development with sub-themes gaining leadership, learning job skills, working with others, and taking responsibility for others; 2) identity with sub-themes self-realizations and self-awareness and gaining confidence and independence, and 3) networks with sub-themes new friends, new connections, and support. The structural description details the emotional and mental process the counselors went through during their work experience, their impact on identity development, and their relation to the needs of the life stage.

Included in

Sociology Commons



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