Ever since I could walk, my Dad would constantly remind me that the fastest way to get between two places is in a straight line. This idea is partly why Nuzhat Wahid, previous William Smith Class of 2022 president and current William Smith Congress vice president, decided to construct and establish a walkway up the infamous William Smith Hill.
Besides acknowledging Archimedes and my Dad’s claim about cutting down on walk time by going in a straight line, Wahid explained her initial thought process in an interview about the walkway. “Unfortunately, the idea did not suddenly jump out from my subconscious and ignite within me a fire to pursue the issue as steadfastly as I have. Initially, I, like other first-years, would bemoan the arduous task of trekking along the muddy plains of the hill and/or the hellish incline of the driveway. Sometimes, walking along both was necessary. Failure on grass equated to full shoe submersion in the mud. Also, take note, white shoes and grass do not get along.” Not only eloquent in wording, Wahid’s idea also marked the start of a long road (or pathway) to helping out her other WS Hill residents.
At first, Wahid remarked, the problem of a long and strenuous commute did not seem like something she believed she could fix. It was only on her post-WSC election night high that she decided to pose the idea to some upperclassmen. Many, she said, agreed with Wahid’s concerns regarding the lack of the pathway, with one student recounting the story of a WS sophomore who attained frostbite during a late-night walk. This story was particularly memorable to Wahid. Later in the conversation, Wahid made sure to give due credit to a fellow first-year who pointed out a possible ‘path’ to actually accomplishing the goal of a pathway. Wahid explained, “after mentioning the concept a few times, a first-year, Hannah Goichmen, approached me with the possibility of alumni involvement. The hence dubbed “Goichman Idea” (she deserves the credit and I also don’t want to be sued) allowed me to contact the head of alumni relations, Kathy Regan.” With Regan, Wahid came to the idea of paving alumni names into a walkway leading up the hill, which became the basis for the project.
From there on, Wahid continued to talk to more and more students and people of influence at the Colleges. She made sure to pay tribute to those who have helped her along the way and helped her navigate the difficulties of a proposition this large. Some people she mentioned included, Regan, associate vice president for advancement, who helped with the “schematics” of the plan, Christopher Button, and Tom Bonacci, both project managers from Buildings and Grounds, helped with engineering logistics. Through these meetings, which took place after the first of November 2018, Wahid said she really began to realize and visualize the concept of the walkway. She said Tom Bonacci was especially helpful in this area, as he not only helped with the dimensions and elevation of the hill but even took the time to traverse the hill several times to come up with the best path. This path can be seen in the image to the (right). Later in the process after, “a lull in activity due to Thanksgiving, midterms and my reluctance to leave the warmth of my dorm” she decided to reach out to the Architecture Department. Initial correspondence with Professor Kirin Makker and Professor Jeffrey Blankenship, both associate professors of Art and Architecture, provided her with the information necessary to acquire price estimates. Through a recommendation from Professor Blankenship, she was then directed to the Arts and Design Collective to come up with more tangible plans and drawings. During her meeting with Elizabeth Rhodes, the head of the Arts and Design Collective, they determined that the collective should work with WSC to produce the plans. Currently, the drawings and plans are still in progress.
Throughout the process, Wahid was happily surprised by the response. While she said she was expecting a sort of “pseudo-renegade” against the idea, or at least some more vocal backlash, she found there to be an outpouring of support regarding the issue. Upon speculation about the lack of backlash or negative response, Wahid explained that it could have been because “it involves alumni, or because it increases handicap accessibility and/or it makes life more convenient for students, but either way, I know that not only do the students need this, the Colleges do as well.” Wahid said that that by allowing alumni to become involved in this project, it not only created “a visible representation of the concept of William Smith students moving up other William Smith students but a tangible installation and tribute to our alumni.”
Besides the more obvious benefits, Wahid explained some of the drawbacks with the installation. She said the Colleges’ primary concern is the preservation of the grass. However, Wahid (as well as others involved in the project) believes that “were this walkway plan to come to fruition, not only would it add to the aesthetics of the Colleges but it would also serve to strengthen the image of the Colleges and increase our handicap accessibility.” In terms of completion times, Wahid would want it to be completed in the summer so as not to compete with student foot traffic. On a broader completion scale, Wahid hopes the walkway will be done before her graduation. She added: “unless some unfortunate circumstance befalls me, I will utilize my time to see that it progresses.”
You would think that this project would be enough to keep Wahid busy, but she made sure to announce that she has other projects in the works as well. While some are still confidential, she referred to a project she is working on with Kristen Tobey, director of Student Activities, which has the goal in mind of bringing free menstrual hygiene products to campus. In closing, Wahid said that no matter what, she will continue to strive to improve HWS in any way possible. And if we are just looking at her track record so far, I think it’s safe to say she has done just that.