Advancing Academic Pathways for Building Capacity in the Youth Development Profession


  • William H. Quinn Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Clemson University
  • Barry A. Garst Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Clemson University
  • Edmond P. Bowers Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Clemson University
  • Kayla L. Weston Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Clemson University



youth development, academic degree programs, higher education, online learning


The growing literature on the theory and practice of youth development provides a framework for youth-serving practitioners to design, implement, and grow youth programs in their communities. Yet such a framework is not widely known in many youth-serving organizations where professional development is variable. The youth development field would benefit from academically trained professionals who could apply the youth development literature to serve youth more effectively in organizations or communities. This article describes a graduate level academic degree program in youth development to: (a) increase awareness of the importance of youth programs and (b) bring attention to the fundamental learning structures that can be deployed to build human capacity in the youth development field. The history, theoretical frameworks, and structure of the program are briefly described. Details are provided on 4 effective features of this academic degree program rated by students and graduates as being valuable components of the program. Applications to youth development practice are explored.

Author Biographies

William H. Quinn, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Clemson University

Dr. William Quinn serves as Professor and Coordinator of Youth Development Programs including the M.S. Youth Development Leadership program.  His research interest is in family interaction to promote child and adolescent well-being and positive family functioning.  He has participated on multiple studies and published numerous refereed journal articles examining family intervention programs and outcomes. Dr. Quinn also serves as Executive Director of Families4Change, Inc., a non-profit organization that sponsors the evidence-based best practice program – the Family Solutions Program.

Barry A. Garst, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Clemson University

Barry A. Garst, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Youth Development Leadership at Clemson University and the former director of program development and research application with the American Camp Association.  His applied research focuses on critical and emerging issues faced by out-of-school time youth program providers, with an emphasis on the needs and concerns of parents.  He also investigates pathways for youth development professionalism. 

Edmond P. Bowers, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Clemson University

Dr. Ed Bowers is an Associate Professor of Youth Development Leadership at Clemson University.  He received both B.S. and M.Ed. degrees from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology from Boston College. Dr. Bowers’ primary research interest is on the influence of non-parental social supports (e.g., mentors, youth leaders, coaches, teachers, older peers) in promoting healthy and positive development in young people.  Through this research agenda, Dr. Bowers has collaborated with researchers and practitioners to design, implement, and evaluate research-based programs and materials in diverse school- and community-based settings across the country.

Kayla L. Weston, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Clemson University

Kayla Weston is a Ph.D. candidate in Clemson University’s International Family and Community Studies program.  Prior to enrolling in the doctorate program, she earned her M.S. in Youth Development Leadership at Clemson.  While in the M.S. program, Kayla began work as a Clemson research assistant for a Boys and Girls Clubs of America program evaluation. Kayla is also a veteran naval officer, having served eight years on active duty after receiving her B.S. in English from the U.S. Naval Academy.  Kayla will begin work on her dissertation this year and is continuing on in her role as a research assistant. 


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