The COVID-19 Effect: Examining Organizational Resilience in Outdoor Adventure and Experiential Education


  • Erik Rabinowitz Appalachian State University
  • Aaron Michael Leonard Sierra Club
  • Alan Ewert Indiana University
  • Forrest Schwartz University of New Hampshire
  • S. Anthony Deringer Texas State University



covid-19 pandemic, outdoor adventure education, experiental education, outdoor behavioral healthcare, organizational resiliency


The COVID-19 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)) pandemic has impacted much of society, including those organizations involved in the fields of outdoor adventure and experiential education (OAEE). This study examined the organizational characteristics held by a select group of OAEE organizations in an effort to identify practices associated with crisis resiliency as the OAEE fields transition to a Post-Vaccine Rollout (PVR) setting and beyond. Data for this study came from Phase 4 of a parent study examining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on outdoor adventure education fields (OAEE) (Leonard et al., 2021). Data were collected via online survey using Qualtrics and examined at three points: 1) pre-pandemic; 2) pandemic; and 3) post-vaccine rollout (PVR). Both demographic and organizational resilience items were collected. Organizations were asked to grade themselves (A, B, C, D, E) on their levels of resilience during the three pandemic phases. From an initial sample of 860, 94 usable surveys were obtained for a 11 percent response rate. Overall, the organizations studied graded themselves as fairly effective in dealing with the pandemic. Moreover, the level of organizational resilience they reported started high (pre-pandemic), went down (during the pandemic), and rose during the post-vaccine rollout phase, but generally not to pre-pandemic levels. Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for OAEE organizations to examine their effectiveness and organization resilience. This examination and subsequent action will be useful for the next crisis that emerges for the field.

Author Biographies

Erik Rabinowitz, Appalachian State University

Erik Rabinowitz, PhD, is a Professor at Appalachian State University in the Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education.

Aaron Michael Leonard, Sierra Club

Aaron Leonard, USA (Ret), is a Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club Military Outdoors and holds an MA in Outdoor Education and Leadership from Prescott College.

Alan Ewert, Indiana University

Alan Ewert, PhD, is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. Prior to this, he was a Professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies and held the Patricia and Joel Meier Endowed Chair in Outdoor Leadership.

S. Anthony Deringer, Texas State University

S. Anthony Deringer, EdD, is an Assistant Professor in the Recreation Administration Division at Texas State University.


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Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Special Issue 2022