Most IMSA students know the academy’s iconic mission statement to “ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition…”. But most overlook the ellipsis at the end which cuts off the “how” behind this ambitious endeavor.
The academy has an aspiration, but it is necessary to understand the precursory steps to such an extraordinary goal. The full mission statement declares that IMSA dedicates itself to igniting and nurturing creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition “through a system distinguished by profound questions, collaborative relationships, personalized experiential learning, global networking, generative use of technology and pioneering outreach.” Looking at IMSA’s history and upcoming changes, it appears that IMSA is striving to meet this oft forgotten portion of its mission statement (and ultimately, the familiar one).
In the 26 years since IMSA was founded, it has gone through much modification in its campus, curriculum, and academic philosophy. It all started in 1982, when Nobel physics laureate Leon Lederman had the vision to build an institution that would offer “a uniquely challenging education for students talented in the areas of mathematics and science.” Four year later in the fall of 1986, 210 students traveled to Aurora, Illinois to be IMSA’s first class under the presidency of Stephanie Pace Marshall. In 1992, IMSA began to focus on a unique teaching style defined by problem-based and integrative learning. And in 1993, the academy transcended the title of simply a “school”, deeming itself an “educational laboratory.”
Today, IMSA has many ongoing projects, the most notable of which are the establishment of a new president and the creation of the Innovation Hub. Administration is accepting applications for the presidential successor to Dr. Max McGee after his retirement last summer. They are looking for someone who will be “a visionary thought and action leader with a strong record of successful proof of concept, sustaining excellence and mission-driven disruptive innovation.” Administration hopes to find a candidate by the spring of 2014.
IMSA is also in the process of developing a center for STEM advancement called the Innovation Hub. Using emerging technology such as 3D workstations and touch-screen video walls, this area will be designated for promoting collaboration between students, entrepreneurs, the Fox Valley business community, and other organizations that will create a network for idea development and startups.
In addition, it is meant to house the growing IMSA TALENT program to further support opportunities for students interested in business. IMSA president Cathy Veal describes it as “a hub of creative energy and startup culture” not just for math or science.
Programs like TALENT and the Innovation Hub were designed to cultivate a collaborative spirit to fulfill IMSA’s mission statement. These programs serve as platforms from which students can take ownership of their ideas and develop them. The Innovation Hub provides many exciting opportunities for students to grow and expand their boundaries outside their school and even state. Administration hopes to establish the facility by 2015 or 2016. With the help of generous donations by IMSA’s partners, alumni, and friends and family of the community, administration can continue to develop and refine its renowned institution. And with a new president, an Innovation Hub, and many more improvements in the near future, the IMSA community has much to look forward to as we move along “…through a system distinguished by profound questions, collaborative relationships, personalized experiential learning, global networking, generative use of technology and pioneering outreach.”
Sources: Cathy Veal