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August 1, 2021 - -
PMBA Student Dwight Brown with Dr. Nat Irvin at PMBA commencement May 2021

When Air Force retiree Dwight Brown was sitting at his MBA graduation, little did he know that he would be the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Military Award. The award honors the person who demonstrates outstanding dedication and contributions to the Professional MBA program. “I was totally surprised when they called my name. I am honored and grateful to be selected.” From his thirty-plus years of service to his time at UofL, Dwight has transformed challenges into opportunities.

Military Service

Dwight’s journey began in the US Air Force in the early ’80s. “I joined the Air Force Reserves right out of high school. I knew that I couldn’t afford college, and I also was looking for a little more structure.” He saw the world during his 35 years of service, including during Operation Desert Storm. Dwight’s natural curiosity and drive to improve his station in life meant taking opportunities as they came—including moving through a few different careers while in the Air Force. A fascination with medicine prompted him to become a medic, ultimately shaping his future career path as a civilian. When he returned stateside, Dwight transitioned into computer information systems and a career in medical informatics.

Looking to add a boost to his decade-long healthcare career, Dwight decided to pursue an MBA at UofL. The transition back to classes was a difficult commitment. “Going back to school at my age meant I had to relearn a lot of things,” says Dwight. Along the way, no faculty challenged and motivated him more than Dr. Nat Irvin.

From Airman to Student

“I’ve always been a disciplined person,” says Dwight. “The MBA program is a whole other type of discipline. It’s not a game…I had [Nat] for two classes, and he challenged me more than anything because he’s a thinker, and he wants you to think. You need to be able to think outside the box with him. I’m glad he challenged me because it opened my eyes to a lot of things.”

The challenges did not stop with the classroom. As with many students in school over the last year, the pandemic dramatically changed Dwight’s learning experience. “Luckily, we had several classes together as a PMBA cohort before the pandemic,” says Dwight. “Our class met face-to-face and got to know one another enough that even when we went online…we still had the camaraderie.” One upside from a year of learning in COVID-19 was that Dwight was spared the commute from Liberty Township, Ohio to the College, allowing him to focus on his work and even completing his courses slightly ahead of schedule.

The drive and desire to continue pushing forward has influenced Dwight’s next move. He will be part of UofL’s first NSA Cybersecurity Workforce Certificate cohort. While learning the fundamentals of cybersecurity and cryptography, this program will provide additional opportunities to earn industry certifications and badges. For Dwight, the certificate feels like a continuation of his journey in healthcare. “With the need to protect data and patient information from cyberattacks, I’m excited to be a part of this program at UofL.” While his days in the Air Force Reserves may be a memory, he continues to be served by a lesson he learned nearly 40 years ago: have the discipline to take advantage of the opportunities provided.