PITTSBURG — An area student has gone back to school after being considered over-experienced and under-qualified at 65.
Walls grew up in northeast Oklahoma in a small town called Welch. Her family was in the cattle ranching and farming business.
At the age of eight her cousin gave her a camera when she began photographing calves, colts, dogs and horses.
Walls went to college at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, for photography but never completed her degree because she took a job as a police photographer in Houston which she described as a mistake.
She said she should have either finished college first or continued school while working, because after working as a police photographer she had a hard time getting accepted for a job because she didn’t have a degree.
“I do not recommend taking a job and leaving school,” Walls said.
Walls’ duties as a police photographer were surveillance and crime scene photography which would then be used for testimonies.
One of her first assignments was the surveillance of a Ku Klux Klan rally of 5,000 people while in a van with one-way windows.
Walls left her job as a police officer because the drug industry was “booming” in the 1980s and her job was becoming ever more dangerous. Walls said she wanted to avoid having to change her name and go into hiding.
“I was tired of my subjects not smiling at me,” Walls said.
While working as a police photographer Walls did freelance work for local newspapers and rodeos.
She said she worked for corporate rodeo sponsors and also competed in rodeos.
The rodeo sponsors used her photographs for advertising and promotional materials.
Since she had been around rodeos her entire life, Walls said she had a knack for making the horses look good.
Walls was also involved in charity horse events, which led her to meet actors like Patrick Swayze.
Walls was a freelance photographer for the Texas Film Convention for film production and television. Her duties varied from picking up talent at the airport to being in charge of 650 extras depending on what was needed.
In the independent film “Mexican Sunrise,” a murder mystery movie, directed by Rowdy Stovall, Walls was casted as a waitress in a cafe.
“I went in the casting call with my resume even though I was applying for the crew,” she said. “I told them, I’m far from a tall, long legged, 22 year-old blonde but here’s my resume for the crew.” The director had her do the lines for a worrisome mother, but later wrote in a part for her as a waitress.
Walls said she liked freelancing because there was something different to do all the time.
“You have to be flexible in life,” she said, adding this is the reason she has been able to go back to college.
Walls said the bottom was falling out in Texas because the majority of movies were starting to be made in Louisiana so she moved to Oklahoma to be with her mother whose health was becoming poor.
She said she thought with all her experience she could work at a television station, but after applying to every TV station in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Joplin and Pittsburg areas she realized she was going to have to go back to school and finish her degree.
In January 2014 Walls chose Pittsburg State University after visiting different colleges. Her life changed in one day.
“The reason I came to Pitt State was because of the kindness I received, they wanted to help me,” Walls said. “The semester had already started, I was in admissions at 11 a.m and was in my first class 3 p.m that day.”
Walls said she found being in class with younger students was “invigorating and inspiring.”
“I always had hung out with younger people,” she said. “I must be young at heart.”
This time around, Walls said it was easier to be in school because she was more focused.
“Not only did the textbooks help me but my life experience added to that,” she said. “The younger students were impressed with my energy and passion for photography and video.”
In class Walls was struck by the difference in life experience between the younger students and herself. In one class their assignment was to describe the first thing they saw on TV. Most of the students said 9/11 was their first memory, but Walls remembered the assassination of President Kennedy and the man walking on the moon.
Wall’s said her response gave the students a new perspective.
Walls is closer in age to most of PSU’s teachers, saying she shares many memories similar to one in particular, Associate Professor Joey Pogue.
Pogue said that Walls presence in class is like “a breath of fresh air.” He said her experience and enthusiasm adds to the classroom’s experience.
“You can see it in her demeanor,” Pogue said. “She’s excited about learning.
“Lindsey brings a wealth of real-life experience into the mix when she's in a class. I always appreciate non-traditional students because they have lived through scenarios and learned from them and they bring authentic insight into the dialogue of my classes. Since my approach is dialogic, the presence of someone like Lindsey is highly appreciated.”
PSU student Paige Bowman has been in the same class as Walls.
“There’s always a stigma about older people,” Bowman said. “She doesn’t fit the description of what someone her age should be.
“Looks are not always as they seem.”
Bowman said Walls has been inspiring and has encouraged her to chase her dreams.
“She’s a good example,” Bowman said. “She encouraged me to not worry about money but to instead do something fulfilling in my life.”
Walls said young people are just as valuable as they see her.
“This generation is valuable too,” she said. “Not only do they make me feel young, we learn something from each other.”
After completing a Bachelor's in Communication, with an emphasis in Photojournalism in December 2015 Walls spent months looking for a job.
Walls responses from potential employers were that she was now over-experienced and over-qualified.
“Now I have a degree,” she said. “But now I’m over qualified.”
Wallss said she decided to go back to school and get her Masters degree so she can teach.
After the completion of her degree in December of this year Walls said she hopes to land a job teaching in a university.
“I wouldn’t mind teaching at Pitt State,” Walls said.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP.