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Weslynne Ashton

Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainability & Food Systems Action Lab Co-Director

Weslynne Ashton

“Designers have an important role in facilitating and bringing different types of stakeholders together, to create plural visions of the future and pathways to help get there.”


Weslynne Ashton is a Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology with a joint appointment at the Stuart School of Business and the Institute of Design (ID). She also co-directs ID’s Food Systems Action Lab.

As a sustainable systems scientist, her research, teaching, and practice are oriented around transitioning socio-ecological systems towards sustainability and equity. She is especially interested in the adoption of socially and environmentally responsible strategies in business, and the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in addressing social and environmental challenges. Weslynne’s research is grounded in industrial ecology and the circular economy. Her current work focuses on increasing sustainability and equity in urban food systems, developing regenerative economies in post-industrial regions, emerging economies, and small island states. Weslynne has a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and master’s and doctoral degrees in environmental science from Yale University.

Activities at Illinois Tech

Weslynne teaches Systems and Systems Theory in Design and Design for a Changing Climate at ID, where she also advises PhD students, serves on the Anti-Racism Working Group, and co-directs the Food Systems Action Lab. Weslynne first joined Illinois Tech in 2010 as an Assistant Professor at the Stuart School of Business, where she focused on environmental management and sustainability. In 2017, she became an Associate Professor, deepening her work on sustainable business and social entrepreneurship. She joined ID in 2020 as an Associate Professor and was promoted to Professor in 2023 in recognition of the contributions made to the field and teaching. Weslynne has twice served in the Illinois Tech Global Leaders Program (2011–12 and 2014–16) and has been an IPRO Day judge since 2012.

Industry Experience

Before joining Illinois Tech, Weslynne was at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in New Haven, CT. There, she was an associate research scientist and lecturer (2008–10), as well as a teaching assistant and project coordinator during her graduate study (2002–08). Weslynne also was general manager at Technology Experts Caribbean Holdings, Trinidad and Tobago (2000–01) and served as an environmental scientist at Gradient Corporation in Cambridge, MA (1999–2000).

In 2018, Weslynne was awarded a 2018–19 Jefferson Science Fellowship by the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. As a Fellow, she worked with the US Agency for International Development in the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia’s Energy and Infrastructure Division. The division works with partner countries in Southeast Europe and the Black Sea region to modernize their energy systems through the diversification of energy sources, energy efficiency improvements, and the creation of larger, transparent regional markets. Weslynne brought her expertise in industrial energy and environmental management, and circular economy, to the division’s programs, where she helped design new strategies and programs for the region.

Speaking and Publishing

Weslynne has been an invited speaker at many national and international events. Her presentations include “An Equitable, Inclusive, and Environmentally Sound Circular Economy” (Virtual Open Forum, Future Earth Knowledge Action Network, May 2020); “Building Regenerative Economies for People and Planet” (plenary speaker, Eighth International Workshop on Advances in Cleaner Production, Sanya, China, November 2019); and “Introducing the Circular Economy at USAID” (Jefferson Science Fellowship Distinguished Lecture, US Agency for International Development, Washington, DC, March 2019). Her articles have appeared in the journals Journal of Industrial Ecology and Resources and Conservation and Recycling, among others. She has also received numerous research grants. In 2020 Weslynne was awarded the AEESP/Mary Ann Liebert Publishing Award for Publication Excellence in Environmental Engineering Science.

Select Work


Neumeyer, X., W.S. Ashton, and N. Dentchev. 2020. “Addressing Resource and Waste Management Challenges Imposed by COVID-19: An Entrepreneurship Perspective.” Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

Nogueira, A., W.S. Ashton, C. Teixeira, E. Lyon, and J. Pereira. 2020. “Infrastructuring the Circular Economy.” Energies 13, no. 7: 1805.

Wu, F., R. Ghamkar, W.S. Ashton, and A. Hicks. 2019. “Sustainable Seafood and Vegetable Production: Aquaponics as a Potential Opportunity in Urban Areas.” Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management.

Nogueira, A., W.S. Ashton, and C. Teixeira. 2019. “Expanding Perceptions of the Circular Economy through Design: Eight Capitals as Innovation Lenses.” Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

Bozeman, J.F., W.S. Ashton, and T. Theis. 2019. “Distinguishing Environmental Impacts of Household Food Spending Patterns among U.S. demographic groups.” Environmental Engineering Science.

Chance, E., W.S. Ashton, J. Pereira, J. Mulrow, J. Norberto, S. Derrible, and S. Guilbert. 2017. “The Plant: An Experiment in Urban Food Sustainability.” Environmental Progress and Sustainable Energy 37, no. 1: 82–90. Special Issue on Food-Energy-Water Nexus.

Book Sections

Ashton, W., and M. Shenoy. 2015. “Industrial Ecology in India: Converging Traditional Practice and Modern Environmental Protection.” In International Perspectives on Industrial Ecology, P. Deutz, D. Lyons, and J. Bi, eds. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Chertow, M., E. Fugate, and W. Ashton. 2013. “The Intimacy of Human-Nature Interactions on Islands.” In Long Term Socio-ecological Research: Studies in Society-nature Interactions across Spatial and Temporal Scales, S. Singh, H. Haberl, M. Chertow, M. Mirtl, and M. Schmid, eds. Springer.

Chertow, M. R., and W. S. Ashton. 2009. “The Social Embeddedness of Industrial Symbiosis Linkages in Puerto Rican Industrial Regions.” In The Social Embeddedness of Industrial Ecology, F. A. Boons and J. Howard-Grenville, eds. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Select Media

“Research Connects the Dots Between Food Choices, Income, and the Environment,” by Scott Lewis in Illinois Tech University News. July 22, 2019.

“World’s First Floating Dairy Farm Could Be Wave of the Future,” by Tom Metcalfe in NBC News Digital. September 3, 2018.

“Unintentional Neo-Colonialism: How Can America Aid Developing Countries Without Conveying a Sense of Superiority?” Illinois Tech’s Curiosity Unplugged podcast. June 7, 2018.