Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Applied Sciences, Technology, and Education

Committee Chair(s)

Michael Pate


Michael Pate


Courtney Clausen


Andrew Deceuster


Brian Warnick


Nathan Trauntvein


This study’s significance examined how outdoor experience in place can influence students’ designs in the context of outdoor recreation. Historically, experiential education and outdoor education have been used widely across curricula but are not so commonly accepted in design education except in the form of internships. This study sought to examine how being in the place that activity occurs and learning about the cultural aspects of place, activity, and community impacted students’ designs.

This study looked at how existing theories such as Landscapes of Practice and the development of boundaries, knowledge, and identity are formed within communities of practice and overlapped with andragogy and experiential learning. Methods of inquiry were supported by a modified mixed-method convergent design. Qualitative methods such as interviews, field notes, and other documentation were triangulated to inform the participants’ perceptions of the field experience, while quantitative methods given through a survey over a year later described the impacts and if sustained behaviors and perceptions occured post-experience.

Conclusions of the study suggest that a place-based experiential field course helps to contextualize design projects. It also suggests that this type of course could build empathy and establish a more well-rounded understanding of the connections within the outdoor industry. This study can be transferable to other domains of hands-on, minds-on learning and integrated in to curricular studies for adult learners of design thinking.



Available for download on Saturday, August 01, 2026