James “Jim” Noble has spent the past 30 years preparing the next generation of industrial engineers for tomorrow’s workforce. His reputation as an inspiring educator is built on being there for his students and making sure they are supported both inside and outside of the classroom.
“He’s an expert in his field, is clear about what he expects in the classroom and makes the content exciting,” said Noah Manring and Praveen Edara in a letter nominating Noble for the 2022 Kemper Award. Manring is dean of the College of Engineering, and Edara is chair of the college’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Just as important, he’s there for students — not only helping them through academic challenges but also providing support and guidance during times of personal and national tragedy. He listens to students and makes sure they know they’re being heard and understood.”
One of those students is Justina Wilkins, who graduated in December 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering. After experiencing a personal tragedy in her immediate family while attending MU, she shared the news on LinkedIn and was surprised to receive a vase of flowers with a note from “the faculty and staff of MU IMSE.” Brought to tears by the kind gesture, she knew Noble was involved since he was the only College of Engineering professor she was connected with on LinkedIn at the time. Wilkins also credits Noble for helping her become the first person in her family to graduate with an engineering degree.
Dr. Noble goes above and beyond for his students,” Wilkins said. “He has an amazing teaching style, is always willing to listen and provides nothing but compassion, resources and support for his students. Dr. Noble reminds me that I am never alone.”
Sheila Connelly, a 2020 MU graduate, recalls a time she was inspired by Noble’s character outside of the classroom after she was invited to a holiday meal at Noble’s home.
“Although he celebrates Christmas, he asked for each student — each with a unique ethnicity — to bring a food or beverage item that had special meaning to them,” Connelly said. “As we gathered in Dr. Noble’s home, he asked each student to share about what they brought and why they have a special connection to it. I watched Dr. Noble as he showed such clear and intense attention, love and respect to each of his guests as they shared about their dishes. That night made it even more clear to me that Dr. Noble is truly an outstanding man with a loving heart towards others.”
Connelly also recognized that while Noble found ways to make learning engaging, he also set clear expectations in a respectful manner.
“Prior to any class, Dr. Noble has all course materials prepared and ready to share as needed, Connelly said. “The same goes for any homework assignment, project or exam. He lays out his expectations clearly and communicates those expectations in a way that is very respectful to his students.”
Throughout his three decades at MU, Noble has been recognized repeatedly for his excellence by his students and colleagues alike. He’s won the Outstanding IMSE Teaching Award 12 times, as well as the College of Engineering’s Senior Faculty Teaching Award; the inaugural Win Horner Award for Innovative Writing Intensive Teaching; the MU execMBA Teaching Award four times; and a Faculty Alumni Award from the Mizzou Alumni Association.
Noble received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from University of Oklahoma in 1986, as well as a master’s degree and doctorate in industrial engineering from Purdue University in 1988 and 1991, respectively.