The student body has voted. And the NYUAD mascot is…the Desert Falcons! One of 31 choices on the ballot, the winning entry was submitted by sophomore Rafael Scharan. "I chose to enter 'Desert Falcons' as a potential mascot because I wanted something that would reflect the unique identity of NYUAD and of our host country, and at the same time evoke qualities worthy of competitive and respectable sports teams," he said.
But those weren't the only reasons behind his submission. In addition to the falcon being a national symbol of the UAE, and representing Emirati culture — "and in such a way we want to honor our hosts," Scharan said — it also "exhibits qualities that are shared by the NYUAD community." As Scharan explained, "The falcon as a species is present in various parts of the world. They are able to transverse great distances in flight; possess remarkable vision; are known for their impressive confidence, fearlessness, speed, and precision; and finally, are recognized by ornithologists as among the most intelligent species of birds. In a similar way, the members of the NYUAD community come together from all over the earth to boldly rally their world-class talents, skills, and vigorous dedication in the pursuit of a visionary endeavor."
Scharan then added "Desert" to make the mascot "distinguishable" and "to reinforce our unique and impressive geographical location."
Competing entries included a range of other animals, some formidable, some not. In addition to the Leopards, the Panthers, and the Cheetahs, students submitted the Purple Camels, the Coral, the Penguins, and the Jellyfish. Other choices were of a mythical nature — the Dragon, the Djinn, the Genies, the Chimera, the Golems, and the Dunicorns — while some reflected Abu Dhabi — the Dhibba and the Sand Storm, which included the explanation: "It is made of little particles that are only strong together, like us."
Next on the agenda is a logo design, which will also be created by the student body. Submissions will be judged by a panel of NYUAD faculty, students, and administrators, and the top two or three designs will be voted on by the student body. Once the design has been chosen, a mascot suit will then be created. "I've already had about 10 students approaching me interested in being the mascot," said sophomore Brett Bolton, who is pleased with the chosen mascot. "The idea was to pick something that would be culturally fitting and also embody a sense of intimidation," he said.
Despite his confidence in the Desert Falcons being a good suggestion for the University mascot, Scharan was surprised to learn that it had won. "It is very rewarding to have been able to contribute to the formation of one part of the long-term identity of NYUAD," he said. "It’s like a small legacy."