Research on international business norms leads Northeastern professor to win Fulbright Scholarship award

headshot of professor Luis Dau
Luis Dau, associate professor of international business and strategy poses, received the Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Award. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, international business and strategy professor Luis Dau watched the developing nation grow, sparking his interest in how regulatory and pro-market reforms affect domestic and international business. 

Dau began his career at Northeastern University in 2010, where he continued his research on institutions and emerging market firms. 

However, in the past few years, Dau began to question why some countries succeeded while others did not. Why has the progress been uneven? Why has South Korea leapfrogged most of Latin America? Why have Asian countries faired better? 

Informal institutions include unwritten norms like a handshake to make a deal, doing favors for other family members, or greasing the red tape in government paperwork with bribes. 

Looking at the relationship between formal and informal institutions has received very little academic attention, says Dau. 

“I saw this as a challenge,” says Dau. “Therefore, I’m going to study this, and it’s going to be harder to publish this work. But I encouraged not just myself but other scholars, too, to take this on.”

Dau is the recipient of the Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Award and Northeastern’s interdisciplinary sabbatical program, which allows professors to take up to two semesters to teach and research at a different college within the university system. 

Dau will do the interdisciplinary research from June through December of 2023 and then head to Leeds in the UK to complete the Fulbright in the first six months of 2024. 

The Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Award is one of only 46 Distinguished Scholar Awards out of 406 awards granted worldwide each year. According to the Fulbright website: the award is one of the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program. 

“I was really excited,” says Dau. “As with every career, things don’t always work out. I submit papers, and they get rejected. I’m very grateful. I worked hard towards these things, and they’ve come into place.” 

Dau is participating in the University of Leeds program, where he will contribute to the university through teaching, public lectures, curriculum development and research.

Working alongside Professor Peter Buckley of Leeds University, Dau will produce three research papers focusing on how informal institutions affect the entrepreneurial landscape in different countries. 

Professor and chair of the Department of Cultures, Societies & Global Studies, Amílcar Barreto, who has worked closely with Dau in the past, was unaware that Dau even applied to the Fulbright and didn’t know what his chances would be for the interdisciplinary sabbatical. 

“When Luis came to Northeastern University many years ago (and we met as soon as he arrived), he was, like most junior faculty, focused on producing work that would be highly regarded within his discipline,” says Barreto. 

“But with time, he has truly gone beyond what most scholars in his field do,” Barreto continued. “And that includes working on nationalism, COVID-19, terrorism and even cybersecurity.”

Dau and Barreto co-authored a book chapter on economic nationalism and international business. 

During Dau’s interdisciplinary sabbatical, the duo will pick up where they left off and plan to work on a few articles on the role played by nationalist movements and politicians in shaping and altering trade policies. 

“By the end of this year, we could have five papers,” says Dau. “It’s exciting work.”

“I think it’s going to be much easier to publish in the top journals because I’m going to pour my heart into it,” says Dau. “These are projects I really care about. And these are people I really want to work with.”

Beth Treffeisen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at Follow her on Twitter @beth_treffeisen.