Points to Ponder: Research and WEA Keynote Address from the 2010 Outdoor Leadership Research Symposium


  • M. Deborah Bialeschki American Camp Association University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


The first decade in this new millennium held many surprises for all of its global citizens. A quick listing of some of the most notable occurrences looks gloomy: dishonesty and greed within respected corporations that resulted in severe repercussions for their workers and the public; a terrorist attack on US soil that questioned our feelings of safety and trust that resulted in a prolonged war; a near global economic meltdown; alarming declines in health and wellness with often inadequate medical support to ever-growing vulnerable groups; and confirmed climate change that could drastically alter our environment, its ecosystems, and our very societies. Yet, the positive side was also there technological advances in science and medicine that daily revolutionizes those practices, as well as advances in social media that encourage communication and quick access to information; green technologies and a recognition that stewardship matters; and a recognition that we truly live in a global society where diversity is valued. But what do all of these situations have to do with us as WEA members and researchers?I contend they have everything to do with us, because they define much of our reality and the reality of our participants. In our teaching, training, research and practice, our relevance is often  framed  within these contrasts. There is a saying: “Do a soul search before the research.†If we take a brutally honest look at our efforts, what are the things that matter? As researchers, what are the contexts that help define the directions for our work?In this paper, I want to focus briefly on three “points to ponder†that I think matter to our work within WEA. The first point is our relevance to current social issues. The second point is the need to take an evidence-based approach to our work. The third and last point is a “call to action†that I'd like WEA researchers to consider.