Early in my career, I was a showroom designer for the furniture manufacturer Haworth and soon afterwards, I co-established an interior design studio that emphasizes sustainable design practices. Now, as a professor in design studies and chief sustainability officer—and lead for Wege Prize international competition for students in higher education—I’m excited to help students advance their innovative design ideas for a sustainable future. 

For me, inspiration is everywhere. Students and great leaders in sustainability inspire me, like Wege Prize’s higher-education students and multidiscipline judges. Design-thinking is the answer to sustainable solutions that promote a circular, regenerative economy. My work with a special enrichment program for high schoolers immerses young people in whole-systems design thinking, sustainability, and the circular economy—that’s inspiring.

There are great women who have demanded we be more equitable, inclusive and intentional in our design work. The work of Rachel Carson made brought to everyone's attention the effects of DDT on the environment, inspiring the development of green chemistry protocols.  Jane Jacobs identified the inequities of our built urban environment demanding a more equitable ethic in our work.

I’m lucky enough to have had many role models. The intrepid Ellen MacArthur who is tireless in advocating industries to shift a circular economy strategy by design. Also, Alysia Garmulewicz, founder of Materiom, and Janine Benyus for her pioneering work in the science of biomimicry. Cheri Holman the US Green Building Council of West Michigan’s forward-thinking executive director, and proponent of sustainable design and Wendy Olgilvie who recently retired as director of environmental programs for the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council.

Circular design is a transformative systems change. This work will take all of us with passion to make this happen. START NOW to make a difference! Together we will make impactful, positive, environmental change. I love our work on Wege Prize, the international student design competition and the Wege Prize High School Collaborative Studio. Young people are creative, innovative, and open to new perspectives. They are passionate about designing solutions that move our economy from a linear to a regenerative, circular economy. Through both programs I’ve also had the pleasure of connecting with great activators of change whose involvement as judges brings together the exceptional minds of design, social, economic, and equitable environmental practices. It’s an honor to collaborate with all of these people.

Building Enclosure Celebrates International Women's Day

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Kimberly Hellekson Rebecca Thomas Kimberly Hellekson Kim McDonald Janice Sanada Ashley Goldberg Marivette Rodriguez Gayle DeBruyn Alana (Konefal) Lovegren Anna Dockery Stephanie Oestreich Sara Karim