Five for nine so far, the Paubels keep choosing UMSL

by | Jun 30, 2016

As Illinois residents, the home-schooling family didn’t expect to develop such a strong connection to the university, but it's proven an excellent fit.
Kerry and Karen Paubel family

Several years ago, when Illinois residents and UMSL alumni Karen and Kerry Paubel (at center) began exploring higher education options for their oldest son, UMSL’s admissions team and academic advisers left the couple thoroughly impressed. Since then, their three oldest children have found their niche at UMSL – and others may soon follow. The seven Paubel siblings (left to right) include Ciara, 17, Blaire, 19, Nole, 22, Layne, 21, Bryce, 15, Brett, 14, and Alex, 12. (Photo by August Jennewein)

By the time he was 19, Nole Paubel had already earned two associate degrees – but no official high school diploma. As a home-schooler, he’d been taking college-level courses for dual credit at Southwestern Illinois College since he was 16. And things were going well, to say the least.

But when it came time to transfer to a nearby four-year institution to pursue his bachelor’s degree in accounting, he and his parents ran into an unanticipated problem.

“That university told us, ‘Well, he can’t enroll here without retaking 30 credits, because in his dual-enroll capacity we do not accept the college credits,’” recalls Kerry Paubel, Nole’s father. “So we were kind of taken aback and decided we’d look around. And since Karen and I had both graduated from UMSL years ago, we said, ‘Let’s look at our alma mater and see what they say.’”

The Paubels reached out to Alan Byrd, the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ dean of enrollment, and soon they got good news.

“He was very congenial, and no matter who we spoke with at UMSL, it was like that – just very open,” Kerry Paubel says. “And so we talked to Alan, and we said, ‘It’s our opinion that a person with an associate degree has already made it through and that Nole’s credits are good.’ And Alan said, ‘If he’s got an associate degree, he’s got an associate degree.’”

Nole, who is now a graduate student at UMSL having earned his bachelor’s degree from the university in May 2015, has excelled on campus – as have two of his sisters, Layne and Blaire Paubel. Layne earned her bachelor’s degree in communication from UMSL this spring, and Blaire is headed into her senior year as an accounting major, following in her older brother’s academic footsteps.

Layne Pauble at graduation

Layne Paubel is the most recent member of the Paubel family to graduate from UMSL, earning her bachelor’s degree in communication this spring. She’ll return to campus this fall to begin her master’s in the same field. (Photo by Blaire Paubel)

According to Layne, Nole is “kind of famous” around campus for his effective tutoring, which has helped pay for his tuition at UMSL.

“One time when I was in the ERC [Economics Resource Center], a guy walked in and said, ‘Man, I really need a finance tutor right now,’” Layne says. “And I said, ‘Well, that would be my sister, Blaire, but she’s not tutoring right now.’ And he said, ‘OK, where’s the accounting tutor, then?’ And I said, ‘Well, that would be my brother.’”

For their mother, Karen, who earned her degree in communication in 1992, it’s been fun to watch her children succeed at a place where she herself remembers gaining a lot of confidence as an adult. She admits to swelling with pride when, after Nole’s commencement ceremony last spring, one of his classmates told her that it was partly due to Nole’s excellent tutoring that she was crossing the stage that day.

“She said ‘I was getting an F in my accounting class, but then Nole tutored me, and I ended up getting an A on my final,’” Karen recalls. “And so she was able to graduate. And she said, ‘I was sitting there taking the test, and I heard Nole’s voice saying, “Do it this way. Do it this way.”’”

The southern Illinois family of nine didn’t initially expect to have such a strong connection to UMSL. But the university keeps making sense, they say. And Kerry, who graduated in 1979, says that what he appreciated most about his time on campus is still ringing true for the next generation, from internship and job opportunities to the development of deep friendships.

Paubel fun at UMSL

Somehow pictured here atop the iconic Millennium Student Center bridge, the Paubel family’s connection to UMSL bridges generations. Click on the image to enlarge it. (Photo composite by August Jennewein)

“One of the interesting things about UMSL is that most of the students remain in the St. Louis area. And our kids have formed groups of friends, and I did, too, when I went to UMSL,” says Kerry, who is a CFO with the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. “And we’ve stayed in contact with each other. I was just with a group of them back in February, talking about some of these old stories. We were remembering how one of our friends had this old car, and it had a bad radiator, and so he would come to UMSL in the morning and put a bucket underneath it, and all the antifreeze would drain out, and when it was time to go home he’d pour everything in the bucket back in to go home.

“And so it is a lot about the people we went to school with and so many of us staying in the same region. I think our kids will do well economically here, as UMSL grads, but the social piece is also pretty big.”

Although the Paubels commute – often carpooling with each other – about 45 miles to UMSL each way, campus life has been a key part of their experience, and they love the university’s location and beautiful setting.

“We live here but we don’t,” Layne says with a laugh. “I feel like my best moments are the silly moments with friends that you probably don’t think mean something until you look back and think, ‘Oh, I miss walking around campus singing Disney songs with people.’ And in that moment it might not necessarily mean something, but when you look back, those are some of the most fun times. Our campus is beautiful, so just being able to spend time with those people you care about in this place is wonderful.”

She, Blaire and Nole have all been involved in UMSL Cru, a campus ministry that Layne refers to as her “Cru family.” Blaire has also really enjoyed the camaraderie and support among classmates.

“Being home-schooled, I’m kind of a really independent worker – that’s just kind of the way it goes,” she says. “But at UMSL I’ve really formed a group, since in the upper-level accounting classes you’re in a lot of the same classes together over and over. And we all have text messages and help each other with homework, and I think that’s what sticks out to me the most.”

When asked whether they’ve encountered any major challenges in the transition from home schooling to higher education, the siblings struggle to come up with much. Their consensus is that it’s been a pretty seamless adjustment. After giving it a bit more thought, Blaire finally blurts out, “Learning to use a Scantron!” The rest of the family breaks into laughter.

“Yeah, I do remember them handing those [multiple-choice, machine-graded exam forms] around,” Nole adds, “with the bubbles to fill in. I was like, ‘What do I do with this?’”

The UMSL Experience

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Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill

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