Noelle Dupret Smith hopes the installation of rainbow crosswalks on the UWindsor campus brings joy — and inspires activism.
The third-year social work student helped to convince University administration to support the project, which began for her with an assignment in the first-year course “Queer Activism.”
Dupret Smith had seen similar designs during a visit to Halifax and decided to pursue the idea as a final project.
“I looked at the cost and process of creating rainbow crosswalks in places that already had crosswalks,” she says. “I also conducted surveys on and off-campus on what people’s thoughts were regarding rainbow crosswalks. The support I received was tremendous.”
She asked the course instructor, Renée Bondy, whether she thought the University would be interested in making the idea into a reality, and submitted a proposal to the Office of the President.
“That was the beginning of the long process” of securing funding and identifying a contractor, Dupret Smith says, which culminated Thursday in the six colours of the Pride flag, along with stripes of brown and black, painted on sidewalks in two locations — leading to the Welcome Centre and connecting the Education Gym and Dillon Hall.
“My hope would be that anyone who enters the university who is a part of or an ally to the LGBTQ2+ community knows that they are supported on campus and a part of a community that welcomes them,” Dupret Smith says.
She expects the crosswalks to form part of a larger movement.
“I believe they will start a dialogue and give the university as well as other activists more ideas on how to create a safe space where people can be brave and fully their authentic selves without fear,” she says.
Dr. Bondy says Dupret Smith went “above and beyond expectations” for the course project.
“I was very impressed, not only with Noelle’s research, but also with the fact that she was determined to make the project happen,” she said. “Long after the course ended, Noelle continued to meet with administration and other campus and community stakeholders to share her research. The fact that we now have rainbow crosswalks is due in large part to Noelle’s vision and determination.”
UWindsor president Rob Gordon expressed appreciation to Dupret Smith for raising the idea.
“We are indebted to Noelle for this wonderful way to signal to everyone that this is an inclusive place dedicated to welcoming and developing the talents of all,” he said.
Dupret Smith is currently home in Haliburton and doesn’t know when pandemic restrictions will allow her to return to campus to view the designs in person.
“As a student, I feel accomplished that I am able to see one of my projects come to life,” she says. “However, there is a greater sense of accomplishment or success in knowing that I may be able to help someone feel valued or appreciated on campus.”