Engineering Professor Earns Win Horner Award

James Noble learned the value of revision and peer review early in his academic career. That has motivated him to help his students learn the same writing lessons.

Noble, a professor of industrial and manufacturing system engineering at MU, has been named the recipient of the 2014 Win Horner Award for Innovative Writing Intensive Teaching. MU’s Campus Writing Program created the award last year to honor Horner, who is nationally recognized as a pioneer in writing across the curriculum. The award recognizes faculty who start a new Writing Intensive (WI) course or take a new direction with their WI teaching.

“It is an honor to be associated with the Win Horner legacy,” Noble says. “Personally, it is always gratifying to be recognized for the efforts we make as faculty to create a unique and challenging educational experience for our students. However, I know that there are many who have developed WI courses over the years that are deserving of this award.”

Noble has taught WI courses at Mizzou for more than 20 years. His courses involve companies from industry or organizations that identify problems for a team of students to study, model, solve and make recommendations using the knowledge and skills acquired through the classes.

Jennifer Bergman, a former student of Noble’s, says that the courses “helped me grow in writing in a real-world setting as an industrial engineer.”

“The writings were critiqued with more than just spelling and grammar errors, but highlighted areas that could be constructed more clearly and ways to make stronger arguments through word choice and delivery,” says Kurt Ehlers, another of Noble’s former students.

Noble says success in the engineering profession requires the ability to write well.

“Without the ability to effectively communicate, students’ careers are significantly hindered,” he says. “It is essential that students take seriously all of their written work – ranging from lab reports to capstone design reports.”

Industrial and manufacturing systems engineering students at MU are required to take three WI courses to learn through the process of writing and develop the skills to write professionally.

“Dr. Noble’s teaching of WI courses demonstrates an innovative approach that uses writing as a means of learning course content as well as assignments that foster students’ writing as industrial engineers,” says Amy Lannin, director of the Campus Writing Program. “It is clear that he cares deeply about his students and their learning.”

As a student, Noble says he was a “fairly marginal” writer. When it came time to write his thesis, his then fiancée and now wife, Kathy, offered to proof read his work. He credits Kathy and her passion for making sure the English language is used correctly for eradicating his distracting writing habits.

“The bottom line is that learning to write is a combination of reflection, repetition and critique,” he says. “Always be willing to have others review your writing.”