Nick Wilson

Dr. Nick Wilson, Associate Professor, University of North Dakota

Nicholas D. Wilson is an Associate Professor of Aviation at the University of North Dakota (UND). Nick holds a BBA in Aviation Management (2006), a BA in French (2006) from UND and received his MBA from Bethel University in St. Paul, MN in 2012.  Nick completed his PhD in Educational Foundations and Research in 2021.

While in the aviation industry, Nick worked for Northwest Airlines as a Manager of Customer Service, Airport Operations as well as Northwest/Delta Air Lines as a Sr. Flight Training Procedures Instructor on the Airbus A320, where he supported significant transition of A320 flight operations training during the merger between those two companies. He also applied his MBA and aircraft systems knowledge while working for UTC Aerospace Systems in business development on subsystems for Airbus and Boeing commercial aircraft, including certain high program value, long-horizon projects. Nick also worked at Endeavor Air in flight operations training prior to returning to UND in 2014.

Nick’s research experience includes such human factors topics as fatigue risk mitigation, cognitive workload during flight, and student motivation relating to aircraft systems knowledge acquisition. Nick continues to investigate other cutting-edge research initiatives within aviation and airline operations.

Pre-Career Pilots and Motivation – What is the best predictor of academic performance?

Understanding motivation of the next generation of pilot candidates may improve training and recruitment efforts. As such a study was undertaken at the University of North Dakota seeking to better understand how different categories of motivation serve to predict academic performance within an advanced aircraft systems course. Students involved in this study are senior-level commercial aviation students enrolled in course on transport category aircraft systems, representative of options they would see during initial qualification (IQ) at a regional or major airline. The students used L3Harris ETHOS training courseware as their primary systems delivery method. The course included active learning and application of concepts.

Extensive research on human motivation points to several possible mechanisms by which individuals are motivated to perform (Eccles, 1983; Maslow, 1943, 1962; Ryan & Deci, 2000). Such motivators could include extrinsic motivators (such as salary or other benefits) or intrinsic motivators (such as personal interest). Based on the work of Alfred Bandura (1986) and Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) research has also demonstrated the importance of self-efficacy – or one’s belief in their own abilities – as a strong predictor of individual performance. Data collected prior to the onset of the pandemic suggests that a collegiate aviation student’s belief in their own abilities appears to also predict academic performance within a senior-level technical systems course.

Unpacking this study will be of interest to regional and mainline pilot recruitment teams as well as flight operations training departments, particularly during recovery and the restart of pilot hiring.

Fiona Greenyer

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