Dr. Don is, unfortunately, retiring this year after many years of working at IMSA. He has been at IMSA for 28 years and in his time he has truly changed the lives of IMSA students, faculty and staff. This interview is to highlight all of the great things he has accomplished and sheds some light on why he is leaving.
Why did you decide to leave IMSA?
“I have had a great career at IMSA, throughout these 28 years I have absolutely enjoyed the students. But things change, the academy has changed. The position of the faculty has changed. I have experienced what IMSA could be, [when you] have an administration, faculty, and staff working towards a vision. Seeing that comparison to what IMSA has become now, I don’t feel like I have anything more to offer. I don’t think that anything that I have to offer would affect change in any way. At a point, you have to look at your job and ask yourself if the good outweighs the bad. The good work that I do at IMSA, working with students, simply does not outweigh the bad. For my own health, it is time for me to go.”
What are your plans beyond IMSA?
“I don’t know yet, not to come off as a nerd, but I have devoted my career to this place. IMSA is consuming. When I am teaching classes I don’t think about anything but my work home because I get worn out by IMSA. IMSA consumes me and I don’t know what I want to do yet. I have interests and I will find more, but for now, I don’t know yet.”
What is the most impactful experience you have had with the students?
“It’s difficult to gauge impact because people are complicated. I influence a lot of people but there are so many influences in people’s lives that I can’t know what I do. I have been steadfast in IMSA providing me the education, modeled learning at IMSA for many. [I’ve been gratified by] hearing back from people I have helped them become more mature in learning start and love of learning.”
What was the most memorable experience you have had at IMSA?
“I think the one that I always remember–now this was a long time ago–one of the admin called me a turd in a punch bowl because I wasn’t willingly agreeing with them. I will always remember that moment.”
What are some changes that you would make at IMSA?
“Bring in the 9th-grade class, I think that would improve the selection of the students. When students go to their first high school they don’t want to apply, they’re not coming here. They could be learning math and science at an IMSA level from the very beginning. We could make senior year not be class-based but more student-based work. The seniors are capable of so many things, but we stuff them into classes. More project-based and real-life applications for every senior would be better. That is when the learning actually happens. That is the biggest change I would make. It would make IMSA truly unique and would add incentive to come here. That is something I would love to be a part of.”
Any wisdom or advice for IMSA students?
“Trust yourself. You need to learn earlier in your time at IMSA that you don’t need to study the same old way you used to study. The second-semester seniors learn that because there’s no pressure on them and that you can get good grades without all the anxiety and stress. The students need to know that.”
What is one class you would add to IMSA that you would be a part of?
“I have to go back to the senior year learning opportunity, IMSA suffers from our departments. There are ways to work together between departments and if we come together we could do great things. Lots of learning can happen outside the classroom. The students, staff, and administration can learn together.”
Do you have any last farewells?
“I’ve started to become wistful of my time at IMSA, all the friends and things that I’ve done here. All the colleagues, good students, I will miss them very much. Illinois is lucky to have this place and I am very fortunate to be a part of it. I’m a lucky guy. I have loved my time at IMSA but the IMSA that I have loved doesn’t seem to be here anymore.”
Thank you so much for all that you have done at IMSA, you have truly inspired so many students, me including. Thank you so much, and goodbye Dr. Don.