I hope everyone had a wonderful summer full of excitement and learning! I am new to the ACA Research 360 Blog and would like to introduce myself and share my story with you.

My name is Rob Warner and I am the new research assistant for ACA. I recently began my doctoral studies at the University of Utah and will be involved with ACA in a variety of roles over the next several years. I look forward to being a part of the research efforts and meeting many of you along the way!

My experiences with summer camps have truly shaped the person I am today and my professional aspirations. My earliest experience with camp was through my local Boy Scout camp, as both a camper and a CIT. Throughout high school, I attended countless specialty camps for wrestling and band. My initial opportunity to work as a counselor was at Camp Courageous of Iowa, a camp for people of all ages with disabilities, my second summer of college. I consistently identify that summer at Camp Courageous as one of the most influential experiences of my life, as it helped solidify my passion for inclusion and social justice. Later in college, I worked for a YMCA wilderness canoe-tripping camp in northern Minnesota, where I continued to develop my passion for working with youth in the outdoors.

After working for Outward Bound (OB) and other adventure-education programs for several years post-college, I decided that I wanted to go back to school to further my education. My experiences first as a camper and then working in youth development, specifically instructing wilderness expeditions, steered me toward pursuing a master’s degree in Recreation Studies at Ohio University.

During my master’s program I studied OB instructors’ use of inclusive practices. This research provided a much deeper look into the practices that OB instructors used to promote inclusion on course and the factors that influenced their use of these practices. This research revealed the following findings:

  • Instructors’ attitudes toward inclusion were the most important factor driving their intentions to use inclusive practices. Instructors also noted that the societal and organizational culture significantly shaped the way they promoted inclusion.
  • Inclusive practices on OB courses focused on the development of emotionally safe spaces that fostered freedom of expression, open communication, and a common ground aimed at creating connections between students.
  • Instructors’ inclusive practices were primarily concerned with developing a positive group culture, as many identified the effects of a positive social dynamic to students’ overall experience.

As you tackle the big task of ensuring inclusion and equity at your camps, consider using this research to inform your efforts. After all, research is about and for the practitioner and organization! Stay tuned for more in-depth information about these findings, as full-length articles are forthcoming. In the meantime, connect to more research and related topics through both the Camping Magazine research forum and Research Reports page of the ACA website.

My graduate studies and participation in research projects have solidified for me the importance of research in the camping industry. Research helps provide a lens through which to view the world and is essential to establish the camp experience as truly influential to the lives of youth in the 21st century. Furthering my development as a researcher at the University of Utah will help me continue to give back and meaningfully contribute to a field that has been so important to me throughout my life. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity!

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about me and my new role with the ACA. I look forward to serving as a conduit that helps connect all of you to applicable research. Thank you for all that you do to help make camp a meaningful and life-changing place!

Photo courtesy of Camp High Hopes in Sioux City, Iowa

Rob Warner, a research assistant for ACA, is a doctoral student at the University of Utah and has worked in the youth development field for a variety of organizations as a counselor, field instructor, and mentor.

Thanks to our research partner, Redwoods.


Additional thanks goes to our research supporter, Chaco.