Theses Doctoral

Leadership Development on Steroids: The Professional Value of Working on the Leadership Team at an American Residential Summer Camp

Tuber, Jake

American summer camps employ over one million individuals every summer. However, little research has been conducted evaluating the experiences and outcomes for the camp staff. In particular, research efforts have done little to examine the subset of staff members working in formal leadership positions at summer camps. Often college-aged emerging adults (ages 18-25), these individuals are entrusted with significant managerial duties and leadership responsibilities during the summer months. This qualitative study addresses the leadership skills developed by individuals in these camp leadership positions and how these acquired skills manifest in subsequent, non-camp professional endeavors.

This case study focused on the American residential summer camps of the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA organization in Western Massachusetts. Interviews with 18 former senior staff members who worked on the camp leadership teams were conducted. The findings from these interviews were then corroborated via a brief questionnaire in which 82 distinct former senior staff participated. The statements from both the interviews and questionnaire were analyzed against a well-known taxonomy of leadership skills. Ultimately, the results indicate that a variety of leadership skills are developed by emerging adults serving these camp leadership roles, particularly leadership skills related to working with people (human, communication, and interpersonal) and working with ideas (conceptual, flexible). Nineteen discrete job activities spanning four major categories were identified as experientially fomenting the development of these leadership skills.

The conclusions of the study foment recommendations for camp administrators with respect to talent acquisition and retention, former senior staff members seeking to utilize and market developed skills, as well as for organizations looking to hire individuals with leadership skills which are of particular relevance in the modern workplace.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Yorks, Lyle
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 22, 2022