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Marilyn Davies College of Business’ First Fulbrighter Research Success

Dr. Candace TenBrink Completes Cultural, Academic Exchange in Poland


By Sheryl E. Taylor

It’s been one year and almost 10 months, since Dr. Candace TenBrink was officially named a “Fulbrighter.”

As the first faculty member in the Marilyn Davies College of Business to receive the honor of a Fulbright Scholarship, she joined a select company of more than 380,000 recipients since its inception in 1946. The scholarship granted her the opportunity to join the Faculty of Management at the University of Gdańsk in Poland to teach innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategy. TenBrink also researched the growth of firms that innovate and engage in strategic actions, which result in superior performance.

As the best laid plans were set in motion for a six-month academic trip slated to begin in February, the U.S. State Department mandated patriots return home at the onslaught of the pandemic. Thus, shortening TenBrink’s stay in Poland to two months. However, in that time she was able to conduct her desired research to examine how 10 young software firms pivot when they run into obstacles.

“The research and study of Gdańsk’s transitioning economy is essential since the fall of communism in 1989,” said the assistant professor of strategy. “One might think that access to capital is plentiful. However, many institutional barriers have coalesced to offer steep challenges that we have not been exposed to us here in the U.S. I looked at how are these firms are able to change course when facing issues, such as revenue sales, customer growth, plateaus or even when a product is not well-received in the market,” she emphasized. “I sought answers to: How do they deal with change? What do they look at? Do they consider moving into a different market, a new product release, hiring more people or turning back and consolidating.”

How do these companies compare to U.S. companies?

Going into her research, TenBrink already knew that companies in Poland, unlike the U.S., have less access to financial tools such as angel funding, venture capital, friends and family.

“The most interesting thing I discovered was that most of these companies didn’t have a strategic plan,” she noted. “Here in the states, we drill through formal training that you have to have a plan. However, these companies are very successful. Ultimately, their version of success is being able to pay the bills.”

Within the context of being only a couple decades out of communism, she noted that as these firms transition to a free economy that they also have a difficult time understanding they are actually free.

“Every firm I interviewed were all surprised that they are actually successful outside of Poland,” she added. “None of them seem to have the confidence that they could more successful beyond the Polish border even though they were full members of the European Union. As a former entrepreneur and business owner, it would never occur to me that I couldn’t or wouldn’t be successful beyond the U.S. border … it’s an American attitude.”

In addition to her research, TenBrink also fulfilled and completed all of her teaching commitments. She taught online courses in strategy and innovation to undergrads and MBA students and was a guest speaker in several classes on financial markets.

Thanks to her latest European experience, she is now building bridges across the water through a collaboration with faculty members from three different universities in Poland.

Her Fulbright experience?

“Amazing, mind-blowing,” she said. “The purpose of the Fulbright Scholarship is to put forth good things.”

And by the way, she’s going back.


About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.