Oral Histories

Robert Hernandez and Christian Nøkkentved

Streaming Media


Robert Hernandez and Christian Nøkkentved



Dr. Robert Hernandez started his career at IMSA in Admissions. In February 1995 he got a call about a one-year position that had opened up for a coordinator of recruitment and retention for minority students. He came out to visit IMSA, liked what he saw, and was offered the position. He started in April 1995 and stayed for 25 years.

In Admissions, he spent the first three years traveling around the state to recruit students, focusing on Latino, African American, rural, and low-income students. He also spent time with students and in classes and emphasizes the value of the educational experience. Dr. Hernandez says, "I came for the job, I stayed for the place. I stayed for the people." He speaks highly of both the staff and students, and the atmosphere of enthusiasm and experimentation. He was involved in expanding the Excel program and forming the Peer Multicultural Educators. One experience that sticks in his mind from his time in Admissions was taking math faculty to visit with students in schools in East St. Louis so that they could see the potential the students had despite the challenges they faced coming from an economically deprived area and school district.

In 1998 Dr. Hernandez moved into the position of Director of Student Life, which oversaw a lot of the functions of the school outside of academics. He mentions the camaraderie among staff, as well as the vibrant student life in extracurricular activities. He coached volleyball for many years. In Student Life he oversaw changes to disciplinary policies and expanded residential life programming and student-led extracurriculars. At the peak, there were over 80 clubs at IMSA. He speaks of the importance of the balance between life inside and outside the classroom for a holistic education. He mentions many alumni he has stayed in contact with and all the things they have gone on to do. Dr. Hernandez stayed in Student Life until June 2017, when he became Principal.

Throughout his years at IMSA, there were challenges. Funding was always an issue, with constant pressure to secure state funding and external grants. IMSA struggled with its identity and how to bring the great things IMSA was doing to wider audiences and educational settings. The invention and expansion of the internet also changed the ways IMSA worked, from business affairs to classrooms and student life. As more students started going home on weekends, that also brought challenges to keep students engaged and provide programming for weekends. "No Child Left Behind" also had an effect at IMSA from the mid-2000s, because students came in with increasingly unequal levels of preparation.

Dr. Hernandez retired at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.

Duration: 54:14




curriculum, extracurriculars, faculty, staff, students, Excel program, inquiry, sports, alumni, admissions


Oral history


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Robert Hernandez and Christian Nøkkentved