Throw Out PowerPoint and Talk About Failure: How a KCU Professor Motivates Students

Jan 2, 2018
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Robert Walker, PhD, KCU Professor

When he walks into a room filled with energized and easily distracted teenagers, Robert Walker, PhD, can quickly command their attention. What’s his secret?

“I try not to use PowerPoint!” Walker said with a smile.

What? No PowerPoint?

Robert Walker, PhD, KCU ProfessorThat may sound surprising this day and age where bullet points, stats and videos placed on slick looking graphics are the norm. But Walker prefers a more casual, off the cuff style when giving motivational talks to young people, speaking “strictly out of my heart and my mind.”

Walker came to Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences as an associate professor of Physiology in 2015. Growing up in Meridian, Miss., his parents made certain education was a priority. His mom was a teacher and his father, a railroad engineer.

“They instilled in us education,” Walker said. “They wanted you to operate at your best. Complacency was not an option.”

Today, Walker is often invited to speak at high schools to motivate and mentor students. Walker recently spoke to a group of area high school students who visited the KCU campus for Student Doctor for a Day to learn about the new PsyD program.  

“I try to get them to think beyond college,” Walker said. “I asked them what their end goal is, and help them to see how education can get them to that end goal.”

Walker uses his educational background to motivate others. He received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Alcorn State University, a master’s in Physiology from Southern Illinois University and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University Of Tennessee Health Science Center.

From the time he started grade school until he finished his post-doctorate, Walker said he did not take any breaks from school. As a kid, his parents encouraged him to study advanced education books during summer breaks. Throughout college, he spent summers working internship research projects.

“I feel like if you stop, you can get distracted,” Walker added. “I’d rather be disciplined, knock it out and then you are free.”

Robert Walker, PhD, KCU ProfessorAs a professor, Walker is known for having an impact on college students like Ji’Vone Freeman.  While teaching at Philander Smith College in Arkansas, Walker met Freeman who was getting his undergraduate degree.

“I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t be in the position that I am in without his guidance,” Freeman said who graduated Philander Smith in May and is currently getting his master’s degree at Duke University in Bio-Medical Sciences. 

“As a college student we get so wrapped up in going out and having a good time,” Freeman added. “But Dr. Walker would always tell me about delayed gratification. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices so that you can have a better life later on… Whatever sacrifices you make will be worth it.”

At KCU, students routinely visit his office for advice on coursework, according to Adrian Clark, KCU Associate Provost of Institutional Effectiveness, Accreditation & Inclusion.  

“He has an exceptional ability to connect with students of all ages and from all backgrounds,” Clark said. “He’s an asset to KCU.” 

“I’m not there to just motivate you. I’m there to be a tool if you want to use me,” Dr. Walker added.

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