You both took Prof. Bazerman’s “Opportunities in the Plant-Based Economy” Short Intensive Program (SIP), how would you describe it to someone who hadn’t taken it?

In the weeklong session, a classroom of students passionate about the plant-based economy discussed its growing role in society. We were lucky to be treated to a group of highly accomplished speakers within the industry from a huge array of functions that explored the growing space from all angles. High level areas included cellular agriculture, alternative proteins, human health, and animal rights. The speakers were just as varied, from vegan Olympian Seba Johnson to prominent documentary director of Game Changers, Louie Psihoyos.

What made you decide to take this SIP?

Monika: I’m very passionate about food system sustainability and the plant-based economy is a key enabler to unlock a more sustainable and ethical approach to feed the planet. I’ve been whole-food plant-based for 8 years and am very excited to see the growing energy in the industry. I was also very keen to meet other individuals in the space, not only other students, but also the speakers who are pioneering this movement.

Sutton: Coming from the traditional energy space, I’ve also been super passionate about novel approaches to sustainability. I believe that a critical look at our food system is too often off the table when major groups discuss the topic. This SIP offered a chance to engage with highly energetic entrepreneurs just as keen to reduce their carbon footprint, and along the way solve many other problems with the greater food ecosystem.

What were some of the key takeaways from the SIP? Was there anything that surprised you?

We were both surprised with how tightly knit the community was. As a very mission-driven group, they were all eager to discuss the real implications behind their companies, in addition to being critical of businesses that they saw as only financially driven. We were inspired by the scrappiness of the group: so many of them had no formal training in the field and took their own initiative to lead the solutions that eventually became their companies.

What impact did this SIP have on your thoughts about your career going forward?

Monika: The SIP reinforced my dedication to the field and belief in the promise of a plant-based future. As someone looking to join an early stage operator in this space, I felt a ton of energy that reassured my decision to pursue my career in the field. There is so much to be done in this sector that I am beyond enthusiastic to roll up my sleeves and get to work!

Sutton: Before the SIP, I thought a career in the plant-based economy would be limiting, not only from the total addressable market, but also from a narrow number of potential applications of the technologies being explored. This SIP shattered that view by showing the huge amount of interest in the field, and the vast amount of technological innovation that the plant-based world is still waiting to explore and apply in further industries.

How would you like to see this type of programming evolve in the future?

We would love to see this SIP not only continue but expand to a wider field. The plant-based economy encompasses even more areas that would be great to discuss in depth: materials, therapeutics, personalized nutrition, food equity, land stewardship, and beyond. As future leaders, we’d love to explore how this industry will navigate its own transition, and ensure that benefits are shared equitably, raising everyone together instead of leaving people behind. We’d also love to make a more established part of this across the programs at Harvard and beyond, as the topic touches legal, economic, health, and policy considerations.