By: Kae Vick

Many people believe that once you choose your path in life, you can’t change your mind. That the path you choose is the one you have to follow. Though that is not necessarily the case. Especially not for ethics professor in the University of Wyoming College of Business, Kent Noble, who completely changed career paths not once, but at least three times over the years.

Noble grew up here in Wyoming, so it is not much of a surprise that he attended the University of Wyoming for his college years. However, as a student, a teaching career was farthest from his mind. He actually graduated from UW with a degree in broadcasting, and very different plans for his career. With these plans in mind, he moved to Washington DC in search of new experiences. Early in his career, he mostly did sports production, having been a huge sports fan himself. However, he enjoyed the behind-the-scenes side of it and preferred not to be on camera. Later in his career, he eventually moved to marketing and sales rather than sports production.

“It was probably a little better fit for me because I like interacting with people, and there was a limited amount of that… in production, but when you’re in sales and marketing, you’re dealing with a lot more people.” said Noble when asked about his first career.

In 2002, he had the opportunity to return to his alma mater with a position at the University of Wyoming in the athletics department. A natural fit for him with his broadcasting background and his love for sports. It wasn’t until five years later that he had the opportunity to transition to the college of business, through a special career option presented to him by the dean of the college at the time. Noble stated that he was not even sure if it was the right move, between his love for athletics and the fact that this new job was very time consuming and may take away from the time he got to spend with his family. 

“It ended up being the best move I ever made.” he said.

He worked at the College of Business for close to seven years before a new career opportunity presented itself, striking out alongside the author of a book called Cowboy Ethics, James P. Owen. By the end of the project the two had been working on, Noble said that he loved what Owen was writing about and doing and decided that was what he wanted to do as well. So, when he returned to the University of Wyoming years later, it was to become an ethics professor.

“I see it as more than just ethics, too. I see it as kind of just personal development, helping people be the best version of themselves… And ethics is certainly a big part of that, an important part. But I see it… a little broader than that.” Noble said.

In addition to Professor of Business Ethics, Kent Noble is currently the Bill Daniels Chair of Business Ethics, which is an endowed chair position, and seen as a great honor to many university professors. The position was named for Bill Daniels, who was a cable television pioneer, a philanthropist, a strong believer of the value of integrity, and the founder of the Daniels Fund, which supports Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah schools and universities through scholarships, grants, and ethics initiatives. The Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative centers around the principles of integrity, trust, accountability, transparency, fairness, respect, rule of law, and viability.

Very driven by his faith, principle, and living by a specific code of ethics he created for himself, Noble says he has been greatly influenced by people who live the same way. Namely, two of his former bosses. The first, Brent Hathaway, was the former dean of the UW College of Business and the person responsible for Noble’s first position in the college. The other, Gary Barta, used to be the University’s athletics director. Noble says the reason these two were so influential to him was that they were so principled, and like Noble, had an ethical code that they lived by.

Kent Noble makes it seem easy to live by your own code; however, he has stated that even he finds it difficult to follow it sometimes. His code is also posted on the University of Wyoming website, among other places for people to see. He says it helps him hold himself accountable for what he does, because it would be a problem if he was inconsistent with it. One of his beliefs regarding this, and many other things in life, is that if it’s not a challenge, and doesn’t make you push yourself, then it doesn’t help you.

“I think our codes are supposed to challenge us. If it’s easy to achieve, then it’s not pushing you. And I want it to push me. I want to be better,” he said.

Noble is a very hard-working person, and a teacher who wants nothing more than to help students become their best selves. In addition to that, however, he is also a very family-oriented person. The biggest part of his own code of ethics, he says, is “live every moment like your kids are watching”. He says this helps him make good decisions in every area of life.

His family, which includes his wife and three kids, plays a major role in his life, and factors into every decision he makes. Despite having lived and worked in Wyoming for a large portion of his life, he currently lives in Colorado, because that was where his wife grew up and where she preferred to live. Since Noble wanted to work at the University of Wyoming, and not in Colorado he has been commuting to Laramie at least twice a week in order to teach. Noble is also very hesitant to take on any task that might take away from his time with family, even pulling out of the chance to get a Masters degree for fear it would do just that.

“Reminds me of a saying I once heard that’s so true. When you say ‘yes’ to something, you’re saying ‘no’ to something else… That was the same, I guess, for me and my family. If I said ‘yes’ to that Masters program, I was saying ‘no’ to time with my family.” he said.

In addition to his values, his code of ethics, and how much his family means to him, Kent Noble also has a mindset of opportunity vs obligation, and talked about those in a video posted to YouTube on a University of Wyoming channel called Cowboy Coffee. In the video, he talks about how differently we do things based on whether we see it as something we have to do or something we get to do. He says that obligations tend to motivate us less than opportunity does. People are far less enthusiastic when they see a task as something they have to do, they will do the minimum to accomplish the task and not much more and they will do it with very little enthusiasm. But on the other hand, we are much more energetic and enthusiastic about opportunities, or things we feel like we get to do, and we generally put in more effort towards these kinds of tasks. It is all about the mindset. 

He talks about how, with the world’s current pandemic situation, he was asked to convert all of his on-campus classes to an online format for the remainder of the spring semester, and originally saw it as an obligation. Teaching online was something he originally did not want to do. But later in the video he says that he started thinking of the opportunity side of teaching online, explaining how, with online learning, students would be able to go back and view the material again if they needed to, and in the end, it may end up being better for everyone. In short, Noble teaches that a simple change in mindset can lead to a big change in result. If people started thinking of the opportunities rather than the obligations, effort would be higher, and enthusiasm would be greater.

 Being a teacher brought into the University of Wyoming through various opportunities presented to him, rather than solely academic achievements, sets him apart from other professors. He’s not focused on only one thing, having done more than just his current subject of ethics, and his work is not his whole life. Between his code, his family, and his opportunistic mindset, Kent Noble works to help himself and his students be the best versions of themselves that they can be and, remains incredibly humble through it all.

“Faith, family, purpose… I would call those my non-negotiables. The things I would never negotiate on. Never going to negotiate my faith, certainly not my family. My purpose is what I think I’m here to do.”