Zayed University undergraduates win in a national research competition


June 23, 2015

A group of four enthusiastic undergraduate students from Zayed University (ZU) got a chance to pit their creative and research skills in a team competition that was held recently in Abu Dhabi.

Maryam Al Awar, Rowda Al Sayegh, Hamda Al Shaikh and Hessa Al Falasi won the first place in the third edition of the UAE Undergraduate Student Research Competition that was held by Abu Dhabi University earlier to give the opportunity to young exceptional students to work on innovative topics and compete with their peers from other universities within the country.

The project, which entitled ‘Dubai Rebranding’: Logo Awareness and Brand Positioning, was conducted as part of the university course: ‘Communicating Tourism: Destinations and Heritages’.

The aim of the study is to determine the level of awareness of the newly created Dubai Logo among various groups of population, as branding cities and creating logos can meaningfully impact international tourism.

Not only were students awarded promising cash prizes and recognition certificates, but they were also invited to participate in the Annual International Conference on Hospitality and Tourism Management to present their research findings, which is scheduled to be held in the United States from January 7 until 9 next year.  

“Every semester, students prepare research projects related to tourism in the UAE. These projects are designed to offer students a hands-on opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom, and develop their critical thinking, problem solving and self-confidence. They work closely with faculty members and librarians who provide in-class workshops to help students prepare their literature review, and then they set off to do their research in the field,” Dr. Filareti Kotsi, Associate Professor at the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University, said.

“This semester, two groups joined forces for this national competition and their research focused on the Emirate of Dubai and its recent rebranding techniques and strategies through conducting a total of 120 face-to-face surveys to test the effectiveness of the logo among three categories: the local population of Dubai, the expats living in Dubai, as well as the international tourists in the city. These three categories were interviewed by students during family gatherings, at their workplaces, malls and other tourist attractions and destinations,” Dr. Kotsi, who is in charge of mentoring and supervising the project, highlighted.

Dr. Kotsi also pointed out that the competition offered Zayed University students a taste of the research culture, which made students believe that nothing is impossible.

“One of the main goals for students is to present their research findings at the Annual International Conference on Hospitality and Tourism Management in the United States and publish their projects in peer-reviewed scholarly journals,” she added.

The research findings showed that approximately 78% have a positive perception of the Dubai brand and its logo. Around 71% positioned Dubai as a luxury and shopping destination. Interestingly, up to 45% of the participants suggested that the Emirate of Dubai should promote more of culture and heritage.

“At the beginning, the research was just a course project that we have to do to meet the requirement. However, participating and winning in the competition meant that our research isn’t only a graded paper, but also a project that can be implemented in reality,” Maryam Al Awar said.

Rowda Al Sayegh believes that their research is fundamentally important and vital, as tourism in Dubai is expected to grow in line with Expo 2020.

“Our research sets plans and develops strategies to enhance the UAE tourism in general and Dubai in specific. Joining the competition made me feel that my efforts and hard work went beyond the borders of the university and recognizing our project motivated me to work even harder,” she added.

Hessa Al Falasi saw her participation in the Undergraduate Research Competition as a delightful learning experience that she will never forget.

“Through the process of collecting information for my research, I have learned wonders about my country, which I did not know about before. This research will always be precious to me, not because of the fact that we have won, but because it carries so much of my efforts within,” Hessa said.