Jennifer Hutchinson, PsyD, is a 2021 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.

Dissertation Committee

Alejandra Suarez, PhD, Committee Chair

William Heusler, PsyD, Committee Member

Diana Knauf, PhD, Committee Member


Climate change; climate change learners; existentialism; grounded theory; grief; values; resilience; emotions; education

Document Type


Publication Date



This qualitative study aims to explore and explain the existential underpinnings of learning about climate change and potential emotional responses to climate change learning. Undergraduate students in environmental sciences and studies classes at the University of Washingrounded theory on in Seattle, WA participated in semi-structured interviews. Participants were asked about their experiences learning about climate change and how they responded emotionally to the learning. This dissertation examines the responses from those interviews and builds a theory out of the data analyzed. Constructivist Grounded theory as outlined by Kathy Charmaz (2014) was used to analyze the interviews. Codes were created and linked together to generate themes that undergird the theory that emerged out of the data. Analysis revealed strong themes of grief, values, and resilience that were then examined through the lens of existential psychological and philosophical concepts. The emergent theory was subsequently framed from this stance and shows a need to address the existential impacts of the climate change grief experience in undergraduate learners of the topic. Education, community, and connection to other learners of climate change played key roles in building resilience to existential nihilism while learning about climate change. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and OhioLINK ETD Center,


Jennifer Hutchinson, PsyD, 2021

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0002-1115-9565