Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Higher Education Leadership

First Advisor

Brian Hamluk

Second Advisor

Nate Cradit

Third Advisor

Bettyjo Bouchey


As a response to the debate about the worth of completing a degree, higher education has built a set of assessment practices intended to quantify the change in a student as they matriculate from a first year to a graduate controlling for the different backgrounds of students. Cultural institutions like museums, zoos, aquariums, and public gardens face similar questions about the value they bring to their communities, and traditionally have relied on attendance-based data as a matter of convenience that falls well short of demonstrating impact as an informal learning setting. This study suggests higher education’s assessment practices can be used in the informal setting of an arboretum to quantify the impact engaging with one of its informal education programs has with participants. Applying a mixed-methods design collecting both quantitative and qualitative data exploring if the length of time someone engages with a program results in mission-aligned outcomes for the institution hosting the education program, this study addresses some of the challenges cultural institutions have faced in collecting better impact data. Results from the study are promising in terms of mission-aligned outcomes for the specific program evaluated, and suggest that a mixed-methods design should be employed more widely by museums. There are limitations to how well this design meets practitioner needs, however, which impacts future areas of research in need of further exploration.