Emerging Adults’ Perceptions of Summer Camp as Meaningful Work





sense of purpose, seasonal employment, emerging adulthood, out-of-school-time, career development


Finding meaning and purpose is critical to emerging adult development. Work can be a setting primed for meaning-making among emerging adults. Meaningful work is work one believes is significant, positive, and adds meaning and purpose to life. Although a robust meaningful work literature exists, little is known about emerging adults’ perceptions of seasonal work settings, like summer camp, as contexts for meaningful work. Through a mixed-methods approach across two studies, we used questionnaires and interviews to collect data from two samples to investigate emerging adult staff’s perceptions of camp work as meaningful work. Staff found camp work to be more meaningful than non-camp work, and said camp work was meaningful because of their feelings of making a difference, meaningful connections with others, and personal development at camp. We conclude by discussing recommendations for how administrators might enhance camp work to better position camp as a developmentally effective setting for emerging adults.

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Author Biographies

Robert P. Warner, University of Utah

Ph.D. Student, Graduate Research Assistant

Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism

College of Health

University of Utah

Victoria Povilaitis, University of Utah

Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Research Assistant

Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism

College of Health

University of Utah

Jim Sibthorp, University of Utah


Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism

College of Health

University of Utah

Dan Richmond, University of Utah

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism

College of Health

University of Utah


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Special Issue: Critical Exploration of Evidence-Based Practice in Organized Camping