Kyle Walkine was considered to be one of the smarter students in high school and eventually college, but his mother Natasha Lightbourn never fails to remind him that he did not advance on to first grade when he should have and had to repeat his last year of pre-school because he could not read. It’s something the mother and son have a laugh over whenever it comes up. And Walkine astoundingly asks, “Who repeats pre-school?” But Walkine has had the last laugh. He thrived years later in a career in which he was paid to – read. And now, he is immersed in studies toward earning a doctorate degree focused on health communication.
Walkine, 32, is enrolled in the PhD program at University of Miami (UM), with his specific course of study looking at messaging, race-gender groups and what organizations and medical institutions can do to improve their communication.
“I’ve always wanted to do two main things in life – one was to become a university professor and the other was to one day work along with an organization like UNICEF [United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund] or the UN [United Nations], even if that had to be through serving as an ambassador. Two strange and very different goals, but they’ve always kind of remained on my mind,” said the former broadcast journalist who also dabbled in print media when called on.
Even though he worked in media for a decade, he said he never wanted to be a journalist.
“It was something that I happened to get into when I came to orientation at COB [College of The Bahamas, now University of The Bahamas], and I stuck it through to get my associate’s degree. As I completed that, I got a scholarship offer to begin the new [Bachelor of Arts in Media Journalism] – so, that, along with my scholarship from the Lyford Cay Foundations, paid my way through school.”
In 2013, Walkine was the then-COB’s first BA graduate from its media journalism program, while already one year into his first professional job at JCN (Jones Communications Network). He was most recently employed with The Nassau Guardian Group of Companies. He did this while keeping in mind that if he wanted to one day be known as “Professor Walkine”, he had to obtain a master’s degree and ultimately his doctorate degree. And that he would need great work experience in the field.
In 2019, Walkine made the decision to pursue a master’s degree, which he obtained online with Florida International University (FIU), and finished in 2020, while holding down a full-time position.
He applied for the PhD program in 2021, and hoped for the best.
“I didn’t expect much because it’s a very competitive program and they only accept six [candidates] each year. I found out last February that I was accepted and awarded full funding, including the opportunity to teach and do research. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I get to pursue the goal at one of the top private universities in the United States – be paid while doing it, and I’m a 35-minute flight away from home.”
At UM, Walkine serves as a graduate teaching and research assistant to Dr. Sallie Hughes and Dr. Paul Driscoll. He lectures COM 250 – Freedom of Expression and Communication Ethics and has recently begun research surrounding “messaging, Black men and why they avoid the doctor”. He is also conducting research with Hughes surrounding journalists and coverage of natural disasters like Hurricane Dorian.
Being back in a classroom setting nine years after finishing his undergraduate degree, Walkine said, is fine with him. The only oddity as far as he is concerned is being a 30-plus-year-old on a campus full of late teens and early 20-somethings.
“It’s that strange but funny borderline of you’re not quite the full professor, but you’re not really a student like them either. I’m cool with it though. I just love academia and wouldn’t trade the experience. I know many [people] can’t imagine going back into the classroom a decade later – but this is what I’ve been wanting to do and I’m happy I did it.
“Pursuing a doctorate degree is a lot of work. From your own classes to teaching to conducting research, it’s a lot. But you get it done.”
He said he still finds time to do things like go to the gym, rock climb, watch a movie … anything that provides him some down time to clear his mind.
Walkine is also dad to a toddler son, Kaylen. He said the hardest part about his decision to pursue his doctorate degree is having to leave his son behind on New Providence.
“[Kaylen’s] going to be two years old in a few months, and you miss out on a lot. But this was something I thought about long and hard, prayed about it, spoke to close friends and family about – especially fathers [before doing it]. The last thing I would want is to become one of those parents who constantly reminds their children of opportunities they passed up because of them. I also said I want to be that example for him that all his goals are within reach if he just works hard and goes after them.”
Education has always been important to Walkine.
“My mother was a beautician and never went to college. My father never finished high school. I was the first of both my grandmothers’ grandchildren to complete a college degree. Growing up, my grandfather, Winston Redwood, who was a pastor, always stressed to us the saying, ‘study to show yourself approved’. He was strict and always pushed us to remain focused.”
Walkine remembers having to go home from school and being made to read whole chapters from the Bible for his mom before he would be allowed to watch his favorite program, “Power Rangers”.
“That’s really how I began speaking fast because I had to read aloud and pronounce my words for her to hear; but I needed to hurry if I wanted to watch Power Rangers,” he recalls.
“As for college or university, while I know it is not for everyone, I knew for me it was the path to be taken.”
Upon earning his doctorate, Walkine said the plan is for him to jump right into academia, but that he would like to continue with communications via a consulting role.
“I still like the corporate side of communications, media training, public speaking, etc. So, I’ll probably still do some of that on the side. But the goal is full academia, lecturing and conducting research. Long term, I’d like to work my way up to one day become dean, chair, and hopefully president of a pretty prestigious university.”
He said he has also not given up on his dream of working along with UNICEF and the UN.
“It’s my hope that I’d be able to conduct research beneficial to the organizations and ultimately children, if I don’t work directly for either of the organizations. I’m passionate about youth work and things that positively impact the lives of young people. I never turn down the opportunity to read or speak to them. So, wherever I end up, will ultimately involve me dealing with young people.
“I’m so grateful for my 10 years spent in journalism. I’ve definitely learned and grown a lot. I’ve worked with some of the best to have ever done it and I wouldn’t change anything about the journey. Well, maybe one or two things,” he said.
“At the end of the day, I really want to make myself, my mother, my son, family and friends proud. I’m on a constant pursuit of excellence. During my days in journalism, I always did my best with my stories and sought to make a good name for myself. As I begin this new chapter in academia, I look to continue that pursuit of excellence.”