Oral Histories

Stephanie Williams, Shirley Xiao, and Christian Nøkkentved

Streaming Media


Stephanie Williams, Shirley Xiao, and Christian Nøkkentved



Two members of the class of 2010, Stephanie Williams and Shirley Xiao, reflect on why they came to IMSA. Williams says she was bored at her home school, and she had learned about IMSA through one of its outreach programs. Xiao says she knew many people in her peer group who had applied and then her mom encouraged her to apply. Williams's first impression of the school was being confused by the maze of hallways when she toured before coming as a student. Among her early memories as a student are getting to know the other students and the challenge of the classes. Xiao doesn't recall a first impression other than being relieved to live away from home. She says while there was a learning curve, it wasn't as steep for her as it could've been, especially compared to her experience of moving to the US from China at age ten. She also recalls making friends quickly, including Xiao - they met in math class and were roommates for two years. In terms of extracurricular activities, Williams took part in Kids Institute programs and joined the bowling team, while Xiao was in an origami club and played flute in band. Both were active in their residence hall as well.

In classes, they talk about the challenge of the math curriculum. They would have "problem set parties" to work in a group to complete the math problem sets. They reflect on how the type of learning they did at IMSA - in history as well as in math and science - helped them in college. Williams's favorite class was German, though she also enjoyed choir and the challenging music they learned. Xiao's favorite class was molecular and cellular biology and she recalls the long paper she wrote for it. They briefly discuss their engagement in SIR projects. They reflect on overall takeaways from their IMSA experience, which include doing research and writing, working in groups as well as independently, time management, living with other people, and of course many good friends and memories. They end by discussing all the ways IMSA prepared them for college, not only academically.

Duration: 29:34




curriculum, math classes, science classes, choir, residential life, extracurriculars, research, language classes


Oral History


Digital Video Recording


Copy permitted for study or investigation purposes, citing the source Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. Any other use requires permission. For more information please contact archives@imsa.edu.

Stephanie Williams, Shirley Xiao, and Christian Nøkkentved