Faculty Spotlight: Brian O'Dwyer

Brian O’Dwyer

With a father who worked for Alaska Airlines, a mother who once served as a flight attendant, and a childhood lived in the shadow of Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport, it’s safe to say that aviation was in the blood for Brian O’Dwyer.

O’Dwyer, who now serves as an adjunct professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Asia campus based in Singapore, has a long history in all facets of the aviation industry.

But it wasn’t always that way.

“I nearly attended Embry-Riddle after high school, but I was worried about the financial state of the airline industry amidst all the airline mergers of the eighties,” said O’Dwyer. Instead, he chose Columbia University in New York where he got a degree in industrial engineering.

It wasn’t until he graduated from Duke University’s business school in 2005 that he found his way back to aviation.

O’Dwyer took a job with the airlines investment banking team at Credit Suisse and worked on over 15 aviation-related deals which included mergers and acquisitions, equity deals such as Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and debt financings to fund aircraft purchases. It was here that he had his first experience in Singapore.

The Singapore experience would continue for O’Dwyer even after Credit Suisse as the Group Chief Financial Officer of Skywest Airlines, the Singapore holding company for an Australian regional and charter airline listed on the London Stock Exchange and Australian Stock Exchange.

It was this job that led O’Dwyer to shift his attention to education.

“Following the sale of Skywest to Virgin Australia, I had time for reflection and shifted to education because at Skywest, one of our biggest challenges was attracting and retaining talent,” said O’Dwyer.

And what better way to ensure a high level of talent than to help create it?

“In Asia, educating these students will be critical with industry expected to double in the next decade,” said O’Dwyer. “There will be more aircraft deliveries into Asia this year than in the United States and Europe combined.”

The challenge for Asia, O’Dwyer said, is how to double the industry safely and sustainability as a massive emerging market middle class takes to the skies.

O’Dwyer is doing his part in the classroom where he teaches courses in Management for Aeronautical Science, Airport Administration and Finance, and Airline Management for the Bachelor of Science in Aviation Business Administration program.

In addition to his work in the classroom of today, O’Dwyer is also helping to shape the classroom of tomorrow through his research into blended and team-based learning as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore.

In what is also called the “flipped classroom” technique, students prepare for the class before coming to it by studying things such readings and videos and then coming to class and taking an individual test to see how well they learned the material on their own. After this, students divide into teams and retake the same questions as a group to get immediate feedback on their ideas. After this, the class will do a group debrief to identify points that need further study.  This is followed by application cases that are relevant to Asia.

“Recording and memorizing lectures are some of the least efficient ways to learn. In a one-hour lecture, it is estimated that you will forget 80 percent of it within 24 hours,” said O’Dwyer. “Too many students and teachers waste too much time on inefficient and wasteful learning.  I want to change that and I think blended learning can help equip the industry in Asia to manage its enormous growth safely and sustainably.”

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