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Sense of Place and First-Year Student Transition: Fostering Capacity Through Outdoor Orientation Experiences

Timothy S. O'Connell, Anna H. Lathrop, Ryan A. Howard

Abstract


To address feelings of “placelessness” and “not belonging,” many colleges and universities have implemented outdoor orientation programs developed to assist students with the transition from home. Outdoor orientation programs, in which students participate in some form of adventure activity away from campus (usually in a wilderness or naturalized setting), have been utilized by a growing number of colleges and universities (Bell, Gass, Nafziger, & Starbuck, 2014). This study investigated how an outdoor orientation experience impacted students’ connection to the natural world, and if these experiences built transitional skills and relational capacity that assisted their shift to university life. The study entailed a quantitative analysis of sense of place and a qualitative analysis of students’ self-reported trip experiences with regard to the influence of place, transition to university, and developing connections with others. Results suggest that participants developed a sense of place that positively influenced their connections to others and assisted in building transitional capacity.

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Keywords


outdoor orientation program; place attachment; transitional capacity

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JOREL-2019-V11-I4-8949

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