Brandman News

Navy aviation maintenance officer bolsters leadership skills at Brandman

November 02, 2016 by Margo Myers
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Todd Nelson is a Brandman University Master of Arts in organizational leadership (M.A.O.L.) student.

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Todd Nelson is a Brandman University Master of Arts in organizational leadership (M.A.O.L.) student.

Leadership comes naturally to U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Todd Nelson, who’s an aviation maintenance officer for Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) Northwest at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Wanting to build on that experience, Nelson is learning innovative ways to lead by earning his master’s degree in organizational leadership at Brandman University’s Whidbey Island campus.

“I’ve spent 30 years in the Navy, and much of that time has been in leadership roles,” said Nelson. “What attracted me to this program is the opportunity to delve into leadership in a different way, learning how leadership works, and how organizations grow and thrive.”

As a maintenance officer, Nelson heads up day-to-day operations for FRC Northwest, overseeing 900 sailors and maintenance of 16,000 aircraft parts supporting 170 aircraft. “I love it,” said Nelson. “I love aviation and have ever since I was a kid. I enjoy the challenge every day of getting aircraft out and up flying.”

His long, successful career includes serving on four different aircraft carriers, including most recently, the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). But degrees and diplomas haven’t always come easily. Nelson admits he dropped out of high school growing up in Orlando, Florida. He eventually received his diploma by taking night classes. Nelson then earned his Bachelor of Science degree in general studies from Excelsior College in 2012. Getting a master’s degree is the next logical step.

“Someone recommended this degree program to me,” said Nelson. “I, in turn, have recommended it to others. In a highly competitive Navy, it can mean the difference in getting the next promotion.”

Nelson is already applying what he’s learning at Brandman to his current role. He explains how he is able to “step back and look at the big picture” to see if improvements can be made. Instead of solving one problem at a time, he can examine the entire system and consider whether there’s an underlying process that needs tweaking.

“I ask different questions,” Nelson said. “What’s the bigger lesson? Is there a deeper issue? And I’m asking other leaders for their input and solutions.”

Nelson expects to complete his degree in spring 2017. And while it’s not easy to work a demanding, full-time job and earn his degree, he says it’s worth the effort.

“It’s helping me refine my most basic skill – leadership,” said Nelson. “That’s a win-win for both the Navy and me.”

We’re featuring stories about Brandman faculty, staff and students with ties to the military in honor of Veterans Month at Brandman University. If you have a story suggestion, email with ideas and contact information.

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