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12/02/2013

Capstone research poster presentations: research for the future of the UAE

For our past National Day celebrations at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi my students presented their research in the form of a poster presentation. While I desperately missed the military band - my students made my heart fill with pride as they presented their research with pride, intelligence, eloquence and creativity.

I will again use photos as my medium to guide you through their projects - you will see common themes and notice that they are all strategic and practical in nature... My fault sorry :)

My instagram of a tweet concerning an email (yes I have a klout score of 60 - I know how to use social media for effect!) I knew I was asking a lot of them... and I was a wee bit stressed :)

The above photo describes the pressure I put them under - while they had been working on these projects for awhile, they might have been on the back-burner as the deadline is far - and the deadlines for course projects are more pressing. Of course, I had no need to worry - but I figured a few "panic email" and rants in class would help :) The two week deadline was a bit short - considering they had no idea what a research poster was when I told them I had "volunteered" them for National Day!
Setting up -everyone there helped :)
The set-up was interesting - they had brought gawa, dates and karak from home - and while we "found" tables to use, there were no table clothes (if I had asked our wonderful facilities team they would have been there - but I am a simple girl and my life never involves table clothes - they know to ask ahead of time now or bring their own!)

I would like to note that the men's Student Council (aided by  Student Life) set up our very traditional display back drop - chainsaws, scratches, pizza and very little sleep all involved!

Waiting for the "show" to start

The provost and his people

I was really pleased that the provost made time for each poster and spoke with all six groups - asked questions and was interested in their research and looking forward to the results. There was also great support from other staff and faculty from the men's campus - and fellow students. I remember my poster presentations as a graduate and post-graduate student and they were always a good way to learn about what others are doing (yes, I credit my ability to teach research poster making to CIRRELT)

Now to the projects - as I said, they are largely strategic in nature (e.g. they are concerned with the strategic direction of the UAE and Abu Dhabi), but they are also practical and interesting - problems or issues they would like solved. I just try to teach them that the best way to solve problems is by doing robust research - YOURSELF :) (of course as professors we help them out)

The group I have never had a moment's worry about!
The first project is about convincing an Emirati neighborhood (by developing a financial and strategic argument and plan) to install solar panels on their roofs. They used an interesting research method - the majalis - to speak with their fathers, uncles, brothers and neighbors about their project, what type of information would be needed and finally to convince them that the project was worthwhile.

The motivation for the project was to follow the lead of the government - who are investing billions in green energy - and make a difference and change habits on an individual level.

Venture capital with a twist
This group decided to work on a purely finance project - with a twist. There is a need for venture capital for projects in the UAE (OK, they might have been told to read the GEM UAE 2011 Report) and my students have big dreams and access to some extremely successful business people in the UAE. Combine all this and you get the development of a business model for a venture capital fund that incorporates capital and knowledge to support ideas from young Emiratis (men and women).


Why are there no "garage" based successes in the UAE?
This group is my tech savy group - and we started with the question why are licenses for home based business so restricted - mainly geared to traditional women's crafts, cooking and artisanal endeavors. What about the app maker or tech guy that wants to be "legit" and grow his business... so yeah, why not? (Yes, GEM Report involved again!). They are doing a great job and are contacting the right people - and proposing some great policy :)

Ambition student - ambitious project - ambition goals!
The Abu Dhabi pension plan has the lofty goal of achieving financial stability for 90 years...  Ibrahim is working on this project by himself and en'shallah he will be presenting it to the Executive Council. I can't really say much (it will be the first project I supervise here where I have to sign a confidentiality agreement) - but the project is looking at other pension plan reforms (including Canada) and all I can say I am proud for all the work he is putting into it!

Exporting dates to Canada! (and other less important places like the US)
This group is doing a project near and dear to my heart. The UAE has some of the best tasting dates in the world (and there are more date trees than in any other country as well) and yet I can never find them in Canada. There is a projection that dates (and camel milk) might become the super foods of the next decade - but the UAE industry needs to concentrate on innovation and new markets to extract all the value they can from this valuable resource. The students are doing a case study on a local company who are working on this - and I cannot wait to "sample" the results :)

Looking for success stories of Emiratisation
Emiratisation is a big issue here (and in the region) where there is still a surprising degree of unemployment among Emiratis - in particular the youth. While much negative attention is giving as to why it is not working - these students decided to look to a place where it is working - and look to why it is. In a second stage they will also look to the lessons of affirmative action in the US... looking for methods that might be "translatable" to this context.

I think all the students enjoyed doing this - and I think I will try to organize it next semester as well - when we don't publicly present our research sometimes it just sits on a shelf... I have a stack of projects from last year, and before when I supervised projects on the women's side, most which warrant further work to turn them into conference articles, and all that deserve a blog post...

Great job gentlemen! Now to finish off the final report :)

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