Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Elizabeth M. Miller, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Kevin E. Kip, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Lende, Ph.D.

Committee Member

A'Naja Newsome, M.S.


anthropology, physical activity, public health, qualitative


The purpose of this thesis was to use qualitative research methodologies to better understand motivations and barriers to exercise for university students at campus recreation. The secondary purpose was to identify any correlations between physical activity habits and academic success. Ethnographic data obtained from a positive deviance sample and critically analyzed with feminist and postmodern theory could provide additional validation for campus recreation's value in positively contributing to the academic success of university students.

Participant observation, questionnaire, cultural domain analysis, interview, and focus group provided qualitative data.

Results indicate university students who frequent campus recreation to exercise are highly motivated to improve physical appearance, physical performance, and health.

This ethnographic model, utilizing positive deviance as a sampling framework, builds upon established work in physical activity related public health research to show how a positive shared experience among university students adds value to a physical space such that the physical space, i.e. campus recreation serves as the crux of building a campus community.

Further research is needed to develop and test a model whereby campus recreation can attract more students to engage in physical activity and exercise while attending university.