Alternative Title



Outdoor Experiential Education (OEE) in higher education is a common and important method of student learning and engagement in the curricular and co-curricular arenas. Because of its importance, many institutions have an OEE program, usually housed in campus recreation for co-curricular student engagement or in academic units for credit-bearing OEE undertakings. The importance of OEE in higher education is widely documented for its impact on college students’ change in environmental attitudes, interpersonal development, resilience, risk management, self-efficacy, self-esteem, sense of belonging, and transition in college. Little has been studied about African American students’ engagement in higher education OEE programming and how OEE program structures may impact their inclusion in engagement. This study sought to pay attention to that gap in knowledge. The research question for this study was: How does the current higher education OEE structure impact African American students’ inclusion in programming? Using data from three higher education institutions located in the South-Central region of the United States, I sought to answer the research question. This study integrated Critical Race Theory (CRT) (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 2006) and a conceptual framework that was developed by the researcher. CRT highlights the importance of looking closely at and attempting to understand the socio-cultural factors that shape how we and others perceive, experience, and respond to dominant structures. In late summer and early fall of 2021, nine interviews were conducted (three from each institution) with full-time professional staff who were directly involved with OEE programming or campus recreation. In addition to the interviews, documents from the three institutions related to OEE, campus recreation, and other institutional documents were analyzed. Many of the findings in this study were consistent with the theoretical framework used and the conceptual framework developed. Specifically, the study found that African American students’ inclusion in higher education OEE programming seemed to be negatively affected by the current program structures like hiring, recruitment, marketing and curriculum and that racial history played a significant role in the current OEE program structure. Practice recommendations include professional development in diversity, equity, and inclusion for professional staff, targeted marketing, and recruitment for student participants, as well as intentional social justice-based programming.

Degree Date

Spring 5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name



Education Policy and Leadership


Dr. Ashley Tull

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Harris

Third Advisor

Dr. Kelly Gerbers

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Dustin Grabsch

Subject Area


Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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