Student spotlight: Will Walker

We are pleased to highlight one of our star alumni, William Walker, a passionate sustainability undergraduate student. In Fall 2020, William worked with the Town of Clarkdale on the Sustainability park project in Nalini Chhetri’s Urban Sustainability Best Practices Application course. As part of this project, William worked on a small team to identify best practices for sustainability education and outdoor recreation for the Town’s 100-acre park, as well as strategies to develop sense of place through trails.

As an urban planning minor, William especially enjoyed the opportunity to meet with local officials and participate in community-wide projects. As a result, William identified the importance of communication with the community as a key takeaway, “Meeting with these people, seeing the challenges that different towns face, and what people actually want was very, very beneficial and it’s something that I will not just take into consideration, but will actually apply to my professional career when I actually start doing projects and working with communities in the near future.” The following dialogue and summary come from an interview with William about his experience in the Project Cities program.

Question: If you visited the Town of Clarkdale today, what recommendations from your project would you hope to see in action?

Answer: William would like to see a specific plan for a sustainability park with clear goals and metrics. William would also like to see the park revitalized with various species and an element of environmental education, “I’d like to see ecotourism incentives.”

Question: Could you describe what you imagine your project’s impact will be in the upcoming 5-10 years?

Answer: Will imagines that breaking ground for a sustainability park will create a new community space for the Town of Clarkdale. Since it will be an expansive permaculture project, Will anticipates it can take time, but that the time will be worth it.

Question: Describe what it was like to do this project during the pandemic.

Answer: Due to the pandemic, this  class was entirely online, which meant missing out on the typical partner site visits and in-person meetings. It was challenging to work on the plan without having been to the park, but William saw this as an opportunity to dream big. William recognizes how engaged the Town of Clarkdale was in allowing his team to have free range for the project.

Question: Describe what motivates you to study sustainability and work in this field.

Answer: Will reported that he is motivated by the “power of people” and has learned a lot from others, “I’ve had quite a bit of time in my 21 years to just live and learn from people and of course, we all have our flaws, but I think that we’re very creative and that we’re very amazing, and what motivates me to do this, it’s just knowing the care and stewardship that people have towards the environment and towards themselves and living amongst human and non-human beings is very amazing.”

Question: What does sustainability mean to you?

Answer: To William, sustainability means that "you're thinking about the future and thinking about the past, as well as the present, for future generations and future innovations, and you're looking at what can be done now to really amplify that future and taking those steps immediately."

Question: Of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which goal would you like to primarily work with and why?

Answer: According to Will, he will focus on sustainable cities and communities because most people will be living in cities, which highlights the need for sustainable and equitable cities. With a major population influx into cities, William believes that we must also protect natural environment within and outside of the city to ensure concentric living.

Question: How do you imagine sustainable development and what do you like about this concept?

Answer: To William, sustainable development encompasses various connotations. Still, it is ultimately focused on human development, “to see how we can amplify people to make them the best versions of themselves that they can be in the most equitable manner possible.”

Question: Do you have any parting advice for students that are coming into the Project Cities program or ASU students in general?

Answer: “I would say that you just have to get involved to find where your greatest passions lie and a lot that is just experimenting to see what you like and see what you don’t like.”

Project Cities is a member of the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network (Epic-N) and is administered by ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and the Sustainable Cities Network. Stay up to date with Project Cities and the Sustainable Cities Network by following us on social media or subscribing to our newsletter.