Oral Histories

Dr. José Torres and Dr. Christian Nøkkentved

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Dr. José Torres and Dr. Christian Nøkkentved



Dr. Christian Nøkkentved interviews IMSA President, Dr. José Torres. He previously served as Superintendent for School District U-46 in Elgin and it was during his time there that he first learned about IMSA. He started looking at the opportunity to be President when it opened and was struck by the mission statement, the Standards of Significant Learning (SSLs), and the alumni. He thought it sounded like a good place with a good mission. He was interviewed relatively late in the process, and was selected. Prior to this, he had also met some of the students, faculty, and the former president, Max McGee. Dr. Torres took up the position of President in summer 2014.

His first impressions of IMSA included a tour "incognito" and sat in on a Spanish class, where he was impressed by the students. In his interview, he was also favorably impressed by the Board of Trustees. Once he took the position, he continued to be impressed by other members of the IMSA community.

Asked how IMSA has lived up to his initial expectations, Dr. Torres reflects that while IMSA continues to take in and produce very good students, his question has always been: "what's the value added?" It may be the residential aspect, or giving students the opportunity to be themselves to a greater degree, but he says it's still not a question that has been fully answered. He says it is important that IMSA also continue to be a learning laboratory and to try new things. To that end, he established three presidential committees: a faculty committee to work on the SSLs; a social entrepreneurship committee; and a committee on financial sustainability, because of the challenges with the state budget. When he started at IMSA he was also surprised and impressed by the variety and quality of the humanities classes, including the world languages and history classes.

In terms of the school's demographic make-up, Dr. Torres says the diversity is striking, though prior to his arrival the Board had been told they weren't doing enough. He also says there was the erroneous perception among some that he was only hired because he is Latino. To try to improve IMSA's diversity, he started by looking at the demographic profile of students in the state and trying to coordinate more targeted outreach to school districts that serve underrepresented populations.

To conclude, Dr. Nok asks what stories he tells about IMSA to other people. One is hosting the International Student Science Fair (ISSF) in 2018, which Dr. Torres is proud of. The second important story relates to the budget, and the challenge of continuing to pay people without having a state budget. The same thing happened his first three years as president. At the same time, the school continued to operate and to make improvements, including completing the new science labs and the IN2 innovation center.

Duration: 36:52




curriculum, faculty, funding, Illinois state politics, language classes, humanities, math classes, students, innovation


Oral History


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Dr. José Torres and Dr. Christian Nøkkentved