Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Manning, Robert


A long standing program of research has found consistent and substantial evidence of the underrepresentation of people of color in national parks and has identified potential reasons for this underrepresentation and barriers to participation. However, little research has examined cases where the National Park Service (NPS) has begun to successfully address diversity issues and engage diverse audiences. Through exploration of programs that successfully engage diverse youth, this study identifies promising practices that can be incorporated into NPS diversity programs across the national park system. The study was conducted in two phases. Phase one examined the current state of knowledge and learning needs of the NPS related to relevancy among new and diverse audiences through the use of qualitative interviews with NPS staff and select individuals outside the NPS. The findings from the interviews were used to develop a conceptual model based on key themes for successful engagement. The model was then applied in phase two of the study through the examination of relevancy programs within the NPS. Phase two used case study research techniques to explore programs designed to engage youth of color at two NPS units, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area. This research examined how programs at the two study areas were successful at engaging youth of color. A model of deep engagement was developed, building on the model developed in phase one. The model of deep engagement highlights six processes through which parks can more effectively engage diverse and traditionally underserved audiences.