From LMC to PhD

Dr. Gary Walker discusses his academic journey.


Photo courtesy of Gary Walker

After graduating from LMC, Walker earned a PhD in education.

Jaden Fortier, Staff Writer

Dr. Gary Walker has always loved teaching. And they finally turned that love into a reality after working in the cosmetics industry as a trainer for 22 years. Walker had been planning to make the switch to academics for some time and started the educational journey at Los Medanos College in 2013.

COVID-19 heavily impacted travel, which was one of Walker’s favorite parts about the job as a trainer, so they grew out of love with the industry.

“A lot of the wonderful aspects that I was passionate about in my cosmetics retail job weren’t there anymore,” Walker said, so it was the right time to start their second career in teaching.

“Now is the time to take risks and to really believe in myself and believe in my skills,” Walker said. “I want to build my career for 25 years in academia.”

Walker now teaches high school and college at several institutions, but the journey began nine years ago at LMC. They completed their first degree in behavioral and social sciences that same year, and their second degree in liberal arts and humanities in 2015. 

While at LMC, Walker was actively involved in extracurricular activities and served as president of the Los Medanos College Associated Students, a student-governed organization whose purpose is to help meet the needs of all students. As LMCAS president, Walker was able to get gender neutral-bathrooms on campus approved, and had a hand in creating the Veterans Resource Center at the LMC Pittsburg campus.

Walker also was able to bring to LMC transgender activist Janet Mock, a New York Times best selling author, for the first student-led transgender conference. Walker recalled these accomplishments as the highlights of their tenure with LMCAS.

Walker said LMC provided a strong foundation on which to build future academic successes.

“I’m really thankful for Los Medanos College, they have a special place in my heart,” they said. 

Walker graduated from LMC and transferred to California State University, East Bay, obtaining a degree in ethnic studies, sexuality and gender. From there they went to Arizona State University and earned a master’s degree in English.

But Walker was not done and entered a doctoral program at Northcentral University. They finally finished their doctorate studies in 2020 and graduated with a PhD in education, with a speciality in e-learning.

“Thank god I had the support of my friends and family,” Walker said. “The sacrifices were big, but the rewards paid off.”

Walker currently has a full plate when it comes to work life in academia. They currently work for several institutions. They are a virtual substitute teacher at Fusion Academy, a sixth through 12th grade private school in the Pacific Northwest. They also teach part-time at two colleges: Northcentral University, where they teach doctoral students and Contra Costa College, where they teach English.

Walker has found a good balance in managing different teaching obligations.

They spend the daytime at Fusion Academy, where they have one-hour virtual sessions with about 25 students each week. Nights are devoted to college teaching.

“I work in the evening, grading papers and working with the doctoral students,” Walker said.

Walker’s dedication and determination still does not stop there, as they are now taking another step in their academic career. 

“I will now become a subject matter expert and sit on dissertation communities so I am really looking forward to that,” Walker said. “I am 100% in on teaching, I love all levels.”