Wege Prize has announced the addition of two experts of diverse backgrounds to join the international panel of judges for the worldwide student competition for sustainable and circular innovation. The new judges include sustainability journalist Deonna Anderson, formerly of GreenBiz, as well as the renowned former professor and consultant in agriculture and natural resources, Braj Singh. 

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD), which organizes Wege Prize, has announced the added judges as it expands its acclaimed competition. For more than a decade, Wege Prize has attracted and inspired talented college students around the globe to collaboratively design innovative solutions that combat the world’s “wicked problems” — everything from hunger and pollution to poverty and climate change — by creating innovative, real-world concepts that can support the future circular economy.

For the 2023 cycle of Wege Prize, which has drawn a record number of competing teams, the new judges bring diverse perspectives and complementary expertise to Wege Prize’s full complement of 10 core judges — more than ever before — to reflect the growth of the student competition. Joining the distinguished roster of core judges from around the world for 2023 is B. K. (Braj) Singh who advises on solutions to global challenges in agriculture production, natural resource management, and human capacity enhancement and is a former professor in soil science and plant nutrition at EARTH University in Costa Rica. Joining Singh and the other judges is Deonna Anderson, who recently joined Next City as editorial director after working as senior editor at GreenBiz focused on the circular economy. Previously she contributed to YES! Magazine and NPR affiliate station KLCC. Deonna has previously worked with the Wege Prize team to interview the finalist presenters in 2021 and 2022, which are on the Wege Prize YouTube channel.

Other recently added judges for the preliminary phase include the two leaders from the acclaimed Grand Rapids Public Museum in Michigan: Stephanie Ogren, vice president of science and education, and Jannan Cotto, who is Anishinaabe curator for the museum’s collections department. In late 2021, Wege Prize also added design pioneer Tom Newhouse and sustainable business expert Bill Stough to their core judging roster. (More details follow below, and all the judges and their bios may be found at http://www.wegeprize.org/judges.)

“We are pleased to welcome Deonna Anderson and Dr. Braj Singh to our judging process, bringing their varied talents to Wege Prize and its student teams,” says Gayle DeBruyn, KCAD professor and Wege Prize organizer. “The students gain invaluable insight from our jurors, helping bring to life the student teams’ original, collaborative solutions to how products are made and consumed.”

With an international pool of judges representing a vast array of subject matter areas and unique experiences in the circular economy, sustainable business, clean energy, industrial design, STEM education, and other fields, the student teams find valuable guidance and enrichment, adds DeBruyn. “It is all about learning, learning, learning – each student comes away with new insights to distinguish their real-world solutions through the competition process,” she says. 

To date, Wege Prize has awarded more than $300,000 in cash prizes to the competition’s winning teams, helping advance collaborative innovation among disciplinary, cultural, and institutional participants, all helping spark a more sustainable and circular economy. With the assured guidance of the competition’s expert judges, the resulting solutions — including many that go on to join incubators and earn startup funding — address climate and environmental impacts, social and economic disparities, and cycles of waste, hunger, and poverty.