Ryerson University: A strong research culture is earning this faculty international recognition

How do you combat overtourism? Encourage less consumptive tourism practices both by travellers and industry? Rebuild as an entertainment destination after COVID? Train tomorrow’s managers to put the sustainability of the tourism industry and the planet first? These are some of the research projects setting Ted Rogers School of Management’s Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) faculty apart for their research excellence. Academics around the world are taking note and using the research coming out of HTM to support and guide their own.

The QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022, external link ranked the HTM program first in Canada and seven out of 150 worldwide such programs in the area of “citations per paper” index. Citations refer to when other academics and experts reference a researcher’s work and serve as a measure of the work’s relevance and influence.The school was also listed among the Top 100 worldwide in the 2021 Shanghai Ranking of academic subjects, external link, and placed second in Canada for its overall rank and citation performance of the journal articles.

“When you appear highly in such a ranking, that’s a credit to the quality of the research being conducted. It shows the research is contributing to building further knowledge in the field,” says Frederic Dimanche, chair of the school. “This doesn’t happen overnight. Publishing an academic paper can take years. Establishing a culture of research can take a generation.”

With university status achieved in the mid 1990s, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) is a young institution from a research perspective. “Thirty years ago, professors were not hired to conduct research,” says Dimanche. “Today the research produced by our faculty members is not only being read, it’s making an impact.”

Purpose and making a difference is a key driver for HTM professor Rachel Dodds, whose research is largely focused on her longstanding interest in sustainability and improving the current state of being. “I want to see things change. I want to make things better for our industry, our communities, our planet. That’s my number one goal.”

Dodds, one of the faculty’s top researchers, is working on a secondary study to one she initiated in 2019 exploring whether or not behaviour at home with respect to sustainable practices influences behavior when we travel.

“We proved in our last paper that there is a correlation,” she says. “For example, we found if you recycle at home you are just as likely to do it while traveling. If destinations make it easy and clear for people to make the right choice and change the messaging to reflect how sustainable actions will benefit consumers directly (i.e., you can see the stars better when you turn off the lights versus turning off the lights will save energy, which the consumer views as a cost-savings for the vendor) they will be more likely to do it.”

Dodds is also completing a study on how well global Sustainable Development Goals are being integrated into Canadian Tourism Policy. “When governments use my research to change policy and businesses use it to make industry better, that is the most rewarding thing ever,” she says.

When it comes to the recognition HTM is receiving, Dodds credits the environment within the department, her colleagues and students. “As a faculty, we all genuinely like and support each other. Everyone has different skill sets and focus areas and TMU has given us the opportunity to explore what we believe in. We also have some really great students. I have published a lot with my students. It’s amazing to see them get their name out on the global stage and carry that through into industry.”

HTM is rare in that faculty publish with undergraduate and master level students and provides competitive scholarship rewards to build a pipeline of next generation researchers. This is all by design.

“Research is a culture we need to cultivate. It’s about recruiting people who are eager to produce quality research. It’s about recognizing research with internal awards. It’s about dissemination,” says Dimanche. “When you combine all those efforts it helps establish a culture where all of us want to do more and do better.”

This year marks HTM’s 70th anniversary. It opened its doors in the 1951-52 academic year, Canada’s first hospitality program. “For a long time we’ve been a leader in hospitality and tourism education and training,” says Dimanche. “Now we are becoming national leaders in research.”