Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Organizational Studies

Reader 1

Barbara Junisbai

Reader 2

Jeffrey Lewis

Reader 3

Gretchen Edwalds-Gilbert

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2018 Sophie M Burns


Outward Bound stands out amongst the rest of the wilderness organizations not only for its time-honored contribution to the field of wilderness education, but for its fundamental process and theories which contribute to its success. Academic attention in the field of wilderness programs largely overlooks the role of organizational culture. To fill the gap in our knowledge, this study synthesizes the academic conversation on Outward Bound programs and integrates it with the most consistent findings about organizational culture. Interviewing the participants and instructors of a 72-day long Outward Bound course conducted in 2015 provides clear insight into the role of organizational culture on Outward Bound, its formation, management, and impacts, as well as overall course outcomes for participants. My research finds that the culture within organizations that are built to dissolve can create meaningful and lasting cultural shifts in its members including increases in interpersonal dimensions such as open-mindedness, patience and improved relationships, as well as in intrapersonal dimensions such as independence, confidence and motivation. Drawing on participant responses, I further find that the role of subgroups, conflict, and exclusion can be contentious, contributing to instability and division in organizational culture. Conversely, shared values, familial themes, and compassion can coalesce to unify the culture so strongly that all participants reflect back on the culture as net positive and their experience with Outward Bound as one of growth and positive transformation.