Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Plant Sciences

Major Professor

Susan Hamilton, Andrew Pulte

Committee Members

Christopher Stripling, Joanne Logan


‘Adopt-a-Spot’ is not a new term or idea. However, no known study has focused on an Adopt-a-Spot (AAS) Volunteer Program in a public garden. The purpose of this study was to understand both volunteer and staff perception of the AAS Volunteer Program at the University of Tennessee Gardens, Knoxville, (UTG) so that other gardens can use the information for their volunteer program. AAS volunteers who participated in this study could participate in one of three focus groups; or an online, open-ended survey to record their experiences, thoughts, and ideas about the program. Garden staff could participate in an online, open-ended survey to record their experiences and perceptions of the program. The UTG director participated in a one-on-one interview. Thematic analysis for both volunteer and staff perceptions were used. Eleven themes from the volunteers’ data and three themes from the staff’s feedback were identified. Overall, volunteers identified with the program through altruism, cognitive interest, social interaction, and autonomy. Volunteers liked that the program provided flexibility in when and where they wanted to volunteer. They described their communication with staff and other volunteers; and how communications could be improved. Volunteers also expressed that the program gave them a sense of emotional fulfillment, added structure to their lives, and strengthened their connection to the UTG.AAS study participants reported that they had a positive impact on aesthetics of the UTG and its staff. They were positive about the AAS Program Leader and the leadership skills but thought the program’s orientation process for new volunteers needed improvement. Participants felt accountable for their adopted areas and described themselves as ambassadors for UTG. Some expressed positive feelings about working with other volunteers as a team and making friends. They also reported that the program was educational for them. UTG’s staff reported that they spent more time interacting with AAS volunteers. This interaction fostered better relationships with volunteers, and new opportunities for engagement were created. Staff also thought the AAS Volunteer Program helped UTG fulfill its mission by improving garden inspiration and education through enhanced garden aesthetics and creating an enhanced visitor experience.

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