When Jamilyn Noble was in fourth grade, her brother found a unique way to keep her off his back.
“My older brother didn’t want to play monopoly with me because it took so long,” she said. “So he would give me his math worksheets and send me away to solve them.”
Jamilyn Noble developed a love for math at an early age and set on a course that would be heavily influenced in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
Now Jamilyn Noble and her husband, Nate, both alumni of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock who have successful careers in STEM fields, are encouraging students to pursue STEM education through community service.
Jamilyn Noble, a test engineer for Northrop Grumman Information Systems, is a 2004 graduate of the Master in Business Administration program, the same program in which her husband is currently enrolled as a student.
Nate Noble, an environmental manager with the Arkansas Department of Health, is a 1998 graduate of UA Little Rock with bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biology.
His love for science began in sixth grade, when PBS premiered “3-2-1 Contact,” a children’s television show that explored science concepts.
He also wanted to honor his father, who never got a chance to earn a college degree but always dreamed of becoming a math teacher.
Giving back to the community
Knowing the value of a college education, the Nobles volunteer with students and help them succeed in getting to college. For the past two years, they have spread the message of the importance of STEM education as classroom speakers during Career Week at Forest Heights STEM Academy.
While attending UA Little Rock, Noble tutored five days a week. He remembers his first student, a young man who received a full ride to college through a baseball scholarship but struggled with physics.
“I just wanted him to keep his scholarship and be able to go to college,” Noble recalled. “He ended up getting an A in physics. I want to make sure that kids stay focused and understand science and math is an option to them.”
Noble said the victories he has seen are well worth the time spent volunteering the past 25 years. Those victories include a student who had trouble in math but is now graduating from an aeronautics program in Florida, and a group of four women who were not interested in math and science in high school but are now pursuing math and science majors in college.
“Seeing the light turn on with a child is what makes it worth it,” he said. “It’s worth it to take someone who didn’t think they have an aptitude in math and science and show them how to maximize that potential.”
Noble was recently named to the newly created Science Dean’s Council at UA Little Rock. Council members advocate on behalf of the UA Little Rock College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences and garner community support for science programs, including faculty and undergraduate research funding, the Fribourgh Award receptions, and the Science Olympiad.
Noble has seen far too many students, especially young women, avoid math and science classes by the time they get to high school and is saddened by the career options they give up by that decision.
Jamilyn, too, is focused on helping girls pursue education and careers focused on STEM. She volunteers with Girl Power in STEM, a University of Central Arkansas event that shows eighth-grade girls what careers they can have in STEM fields.
She volunteered as a speaker during the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas’s annual Girls of Promise program, a two-day conference that encourages eighth-grade girls to pursue STEM courses in high school. She also worked on the foundation’s Central Arkansas Grants Committee, which allocates funds for STEM projects.
“What really inspires me is the fact that I am the result of somebody else’s sacrifice,” Jamilyn said. “There are so many that sacrificed so that I could get an education. I spend my life trying to pay them back.”
Building successful careers in STEM
Near the end of the cold war, Noble spent five years (three stationed in West Germany) working in U.S. Army Intelligence as a Russian linguist who intercepted and translated Soviet communications from 1987 to 1992.
Nate Noble got a job as a quality control laboratory technician at Coca-Cola Inc. while a senior at UA Little Rock. The job opening was advertised in the science building where he took classes.
Later on, he spent six years working with the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, where he examined physical evidence for DNA and analyzed samples for controlled substances. As a forensic scientist, he served as an expert witness in criminal trials and was certified in the dismantling and destruction of methamphetamine labs.
In 2004, Noble transferred to the Arkansas Department of Health, where he analyzed drinking water for contamination. As the interim environmental manager for the central region of Arkansas, Noble is responsible for directing operations of the public health program for two offices and conducting environmental health inspections.
After Jamilyn earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Hendrix College, she spent more than 20 years working in software technology. She worked for Acxiom Corporation as a senior database project leader, senior data administrator, and delivery process architect. In 2006, she moved to Northrop Grumman Information Systems, where she is a test engineer.
The Nobles’ love for STEM was passed to the next generation. Their 8-year-old son, Cohen, has participated in UA Little Rock’s SLUFY summer camp for the past three years.
“He loves it,” Jamilyn said. “In our house, STEM education is a must.”