Introduction to building courses and majors

The importance of increased access to alternative protein education

The alternative protein field has a significant need for scientists and engineers who can advance plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-derived meat, egg, and dairy products. A growing number of students are eager to join this emerging field, yet there is a significant workforce bottleneck. This labor gap stems from the lack of educational programs dedicated to alternative proteins. Because educational institutions are responsive to student needs and interests, students can play an essential role in accelerating the creation of alternative protein courses, majors, and other institutional programs. Our resource guide explains how to increase access to alternative protein education, both within and beyond your university.

We’ve identified a few key opportunities for students to help close the workforce gap and advance alternative protein education:

  1. Design and launch alternative protein courses: More and more, students are expressing interest in the alternative protein field, but few universities offer dedicated courses. With limited existing courses to draw from, instructors may be reluctant to design a course from scratch. Fortunately, passionate students can help accelerate the curriculum development process. By forming a course development team and guiding faculty members through GFI resources or advocating university administrators to demonstrate interest in the topic, student groups can lower the barriers to launch new alternative protein courses.
  2. Integrate alternative protein modules into existing courses: Alternative protein subject matter can also be incorporated into relevant existing courses, such as courses on tissue engineering and food processing. By introducing alternative protein topics in other classes, there is a massive opportunity to engage a broader group of students, including those who are less inclined to enroll in a new course focused solely on alternative proteins. Creating and launching these modules can gradually pave the way for full courses centered around alternative proteins.
  3. Advocate for alternative protein programs at universities: Students often turn to university majors, minors, and concentrations for career path insights and, likewise, employers use university programs to focus recruitment efforts. By introducing alternative protein majors and other specialized tracks, students gain access to a clear educational pathway to enter the alternative protein space. Student groups can meet with university administrators and communicate the need for building these majors and other programs. 

Students are well-poised to help train the next generation of alternative protein leaders. By advocating for alternative protein education—whether through majors, courses, or modules—you are creating novel pathways for students to build a deeper foundation of knowledge relevant to the field. As a result, the industry will have greater access to a skilled and easily identifiable talent pool to drive the field forward.

Luckily, you don’t have to start from scratch to build your program. Our open-access resources are available to support your work. It might feel like you’re the only one advocating for alternative protein education at your campus, but in reality you are part of a global movement of students and faculty equally passionate about building educational pathways. Many members of this community have contributed to our guide in the form of outreach templates, curriculum materials, and general tips and tricks and we encourage you to do the same!

Check out some of our key workforce solutions:

  • Cultivated icon Cultivated
  • Fermentation icon Fermentation
  • Plant-based icon Plant-Based

Building alternative protein programs and majors at universities

To ensure a strong talent pipeline, there is a need to launch robust university programming, ranging from certificate programs to short multi-course modules, centered around alternative protein. Full majors would…

Read More
  • Cultivated icon Cultivated
  • Fermentation icon Fermentation
  • Plant-based icon Plant-Based

Increasing the number, quality, and diversity of alternative protein-relevant university courses

There is a significant and urgent need to launch and support university and online courses in order to build and extend the talent pipeline of students going into the alternative…

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  • Cultivated icon Cultivated
  • Fermentation icon Fermentation
  • Plant-based icon Plant-Based

Industry workshops, courses, and training programs

The alternative protein industry has a significant need for workers and innovators with specialized knowledge spanning multiple traditional disciplines. However, since few universities offer alternative protein majors or dedicated subject…

Read More

The ideal educational ecosystem

Imagine a university with alternative protein course offerings across all academic levels: first-year seminars, undergraduate courses, graduate courses, and more. In addition to lecture-based classes, students could get hands-on experience through lab-based and immersive courses. Educational programs would be offered through a variety of departments, such as biology, food science, and environmental studies. Even traditional courses focused on subjects like tissue engineering, bioprocessing, and public policy would introduce students to relevant alternative protein topics.

In this ideal educational ecosystem, there’s a diverse set of pathways to entering the alternative protein field. Students can pursue a major, minor, or certificate in alternative proteins. For those who would prefer a more traditional major, alternative protein specializations or suggested tracks are offered for all key disciplines. Best of all, these educational pathways are recognized by companies that are hiring! 

This model university has several industry partners who work closely with the career center to promote career opportunities and recruit students. Subject matter experts from these companies host hands-on training workshops and deliver guest lectures in alternative protein classes and provide clear on-ramps into roles in the alternative protein field.

Consider the educational ecosystem at your campus. Presently, most universities do not yet offer alternative protein courses. So how do we go from here to creating alternative protein majors and other high-impact educational programs? Let’s talk about the people who can help make this vision a reality:

  • A faculty champion can help accelerate the creation of alternative protein educational programs. This is someone passionate about bringing alternative protein education to their university. They might not be a subject matter expert on plant-based or cultivated meat, but they know how to navigate the process of launching initial courses. If enough students demonstrate interest in a pilot course, then it becomes easier to advocate for additional courses and degree programs.
  • Even in the absence of a clear faculty champion, visionary students can create courses and other educational programs. For example, graduate students Lauren Blake and Franklyn Hall designed and instructed the “Food of the Future” intersession course at Johns Hopkins University. Undergraduate students Layton Rosenfeld and Elena Press at Stanford University built a first-year seminar called “Rethinking Meat: An Introduction to Alternative Proteins.”
  • Other influential stakeholders in the educational ecosystem are university administrators; these non-faculty employees include presidents, deans, and registrars. When a faculty member presents an idea for a course, major, or other educational program, university administrators assess whether it will advance the institution’s mission, values, and reputation and if sufficient resources exist to offer it. They are looking for programs with clear educational and career objectives that align with the strategic plan of the university.
  • Whether your educational programs are initiated by faculty or students, it’s always helpful to engage industry partners. They can provide guest lectures, evaluate student projects, and offer feedback on course content. Industry partners also play an important role in career readiness; in addition to offering career insights, they can connect students with internship programs and job opportunities. Alumni working in the alternative protein field may be particularly eager to get involved.

Now let’s zoom out and examine our ever-expanding global community of alternative protein educators. This community of educators includes students working to increase access to alternative protein education. What are the shared values that will allow us to create these ideal ecosystems at your university and beyond? Here are a couple of ideas:

Share educational resources

By normalizing open-access sharing of educational materials, we can lower the barrier for other educators to join the alternative protein movement. We encourage you to utilize and contribute to our curriculum repository, an open-access collection of syllabi, slide decks, recommended readings, and recorded lectures from existing alternative protein courses.

Prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion

As an emerging field, we have a unique opportunity to build a better workforce by addressing inequities at the university level. At your campus, this could mean engaging historically underrepresented groups in STEM or ensuring your curriculum reflects the diversity of perspectives in the alternative protein community. You might consider building informal educational programs like online modules or short courses that serve as “on-ramps” for nontraditional students. Beyond your university, there may be opportunities to connect with other organizations in your local community. For instance, the Johns Hopkins Alt Protein Project hosts outreach events for high school students and community science organizations in Baltimore. The Chapel Hill Alt Protein Project collaborates with other universities in North Carolina, such as North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and North Carolina State University.

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Developing your strategy

Mapping the academic landscape of your university will help inform your outreach strategy as you engage faculty, university administrators, and potential collaborators. To decide which type of educational program to pursue, we recommend assessing the relative impact and effort required for each activity.

Mapping the academic landscape

Before you get started, we recommend mapping the academic landscape to help focus your outreach efforts and keep track of who you’ve spoken with. Understanding the nuance of relevant departments helps narrow the list of faculty you wish to engage and documenting your efforts in one place helps eliminate duplicative work.

These are the key categories you should map:

  • Relevant departments: This list should include departments housing key disciplines for alternative protein science, in addition to other relevant majors such as economics, environmental science, and nutrition science. You might expand this list to include relevant schools at your university, such as business, public health, and sustainability. Departments with “special topics” courses (i.e. a course in which the subject matter varies across terms) may be more likely to approve a new course on alternative proteins.
  • Potential faculty members: These might be professors in your mapped departments teaching subjects that have high overlap with alternative proteins, such as food science, cell biology, and tissue engineering. This list should also include faculty members who teach other subjects, but might also be enthusiastic about designing an alternative protein course. For example, these professors might consider co-instructing with other faculty members, inviting subject matter experts to deliver guest lectures, or integrating modules into an existing course they instruct.
  • Stakeholders involved in approving and creating new educational programs: These might include faculty members serving as chairs in your mapped departments along with university administrators like deans and registrars. To determine who is involved in the course approval process at your campus, try searching “proposing a new course at [your university]” to find the required steps (typically written for an audience of faculty members). Your university might also have a pathway for student-initiated and student-run courses, such as this program at the University of Hong Kong.
  • University community support: These could be alumni working in the alternative protein field or companies interested in stimulating local economies. You can search for potential industry partners and guest speakers using our company database or collaborative researcher directory along with professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

Ecosystem mapping exercise

Has your student group already completed our ecosystem mapping exercise for your university? If so, refer back to it for useful information in mapping the academic landscape, such as lists of relevant departments and faculty members.

Impact-effort analysis of different educational programs

Advancing alternative protein education can range from creating an entirely new major to integrating a short module (i.e. 1-5 lectures) into an existing course. Your strategy will depend on many factors like the presence of a faculty champion, your university’s unique strengths, and your student group’s bandwidth. We encourage you to consider the relative impact and effort of different types of educational programs using our chart below as a starting point. 

Please note the specific cases and impact-effort analysis may look different at your campus. We recommend performing this analysis for your university, keeping in mind any findings from the previously completed mapping exercise.

Integrating a module into an existing course versus creating a new course

OptionsRelative impactRelative effortConsiderations
Integrating a module into an existing course related to alternative proteinHighLowModules require less effort because they can be ported into existing courses without needing prior approval. With this model, part of the impact comes from reaching students who might not otherwise self-select into a course focused entirely on alternative protein. 
Creating a new course focused on alternative proteinHighHighCreating an alternative protein course involves more effort, but the potential impact can be greater. Students can learn more from a full course, and universities can use the course offering to signal expertise in the space, thus attracting top talent.

Creating a new course in the biology department versus business department

OptionsRelative impactRelative effortConsiderations
Creating a new course in the biology departmentHighHighBoth options would involve similar amounts of effort. Since the industry has a more pressing need for scientists, a course focused on biology would likely have a greater impact.
Creating a new course in the business departmentIt dependsHighIt’s important to consider your university’s unique strengths. If your institution is particularly strong in commercial innovation, then creating a business course might be more impactful.

Creating a new lecture-based course versus lab-based course

OptionsRelative impactRelative effortConsiderations
Creating a new lecture-based courseIt dependsLowA lecture-based course requires less effort to launch, but teaching practical lab skills would have a greater impact on closing the workforce gap. On the other hand, lecture-based courses usually have more openings and fewer prerequisites for students to enroll.
Creating a new lab-based courseHighHighA lab-based course would have greater impact because it gives students practical skills that are highly valued by employers. However, this option requires more effort in finding lab space and equipment, hiring teaching assistants, and securing funding for materials. We recommend pursuing the lab-based option if you can overcome these barriers.

An intro-level course covering all production platforms versus a specialized course

OptionsRelative impactRelative effortConsiderations
Intro-level course that covers all production platforms (plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation)HighIt dependsIntroductory courses are more accessible for those early in their academic careers; the potential impact comes from reaching these students before they solidify a career path. 
Specialized course that focuses on one or two platformsHighIt dependsSpecialized courses allow for deeper dives on advanced topics; it’s impactful to reach students who already have deep skill sets to immediately contribute to the alternative protein field. The required effort for either option could depend on faculty expertise. You might consider starting with the lower effort option, then pursuing the higher effort option next.

Advocating for a major versus minor

OptionsRelative impactRelative effortConsiderations
Advocating for an alternative protein majorHighHighOffering a full major would have a significantly higher impact, as students can gain a deeper understanding and universities can better signal their expertise in the alternative protein field. However, the required effort is much higher. Establishing a major would require 2-4 dedicated alternative protein courses.
Advocating for an alternative protein minorLowLowEstablishing a minor would be high-impact, but relatively less impactful than a full major. The advantage is creating a minor requires only 1-2 dedicated alternative protein courses. You might consider building a minor first, then expanding it to a full major as more courses are launched.
Curriculum respository

Explore our curriculum repository

Course developers don’t have to create their curriculum from scratch. You can find the building blocks of alternative protein courses in our repository. It includes syllabi, slide decks, and recorded lectures from existing programs.

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How to build alternative protein educational programs

Once you’ve mapped the landscape and performed an impact-effort analysis, it’s time to build your proposed educational program! The exact steps may vary at your university, but here’s what we suggest based on success stories from our Alt Protein Project student groups.

This section outlines the steps for three different initiatives:

  1. Building a new alternative protein course
  2. Integrating alternative protein modules into an existing course
  3. Advocating for majors, minors, specializations, and suggested tracks

How students can help build alternative protein courses

Establishing brand new courses can feel like a daunting task, but it’s one of the most effective ways to strengthen the alternative protein workforce. There are several opportunities for students to assist busy faculty who would otherwise lack the bandwidth to propose, design, and facilitate a new course.

Step 1: Secure faculty support

After completing your mapping exercise, you should emerge with a list of faculty who could potentially instruct an alternative protein course. Reach out to each potential instructor via email. Here’s an email template adapted from the Stanford Alt Protein Project’s emails to prospective faculty.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t receive a response right away; professors are extremely busy! Send a follow-up email after four business days, or follow up in person when possible.

In the meantime, consider reaching out to the department chair to make the case for why this course will add value. Gaining leadership-level support will increase the likelihood of your course being approved. Additionally, the department chair might be able to connect you to faculty members who can instruct your course.

If you’re unable to find a professor who can commit to instructing a new course, check if your university has a formal process for students to propose and facilitate courses. For example, Stanford University and the University of Hong Kong both offer programs for student-initiated courses. However, student-run courses generally do not count for degree credit, so you should aim to secure a faculty member who can lead the instruction if at all possible.

Step 2: Meet with your course development team

Once you’ve confirmed who can teach the new course, it’s time to assemble your team of instructors and student course developers. If it would be helpful to have support from GFI during this initial meeting, please loop us in!

Use this first meeting to scope and delineate roles. For example, does the instructor want to take the lead on designing the curriculum or would they prefer it to be student-led? 

Tip: If you will be playing a larger role in the design of this new course, check to see if you can receive course credits for your work. Students at the University of Guelph were able to design an alternative protein course for credit as a special project through the food science department.

If this course will be student-run, you should discuss best practices for effective facilitation with your faculty advisor. Inquire whether student instructors can receive formal training from your university’s teaching and learning center. You can also review these resources:

Provide an overview of the following GFI resources:

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Alternative protein curriculum development and support

We’ve recognized a need for more alternative protein sources in the classroom. Now, you can take advantage of our curriculum materials and resources exclusively created for students and professors.

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The science of plant-based meat

Learn about the science of plant-based meat. Discover resources and research on the latest technological developments and key scientific questions.

A battered and fried cultured meat, a cultured chicken cutlet, plated with sauteed greens and mashed root vegetables | image courtesy of upside foods

The science of cultivated meat

Learn about the science of cultivated meat and the challenges that must be addressed for commercial production.

Fermented meat by meati

The science of fermentation

Learn about the emerging role of microbial fermentation in building the next generation of alternative protein products.

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Advancing solutions for alternative proteins

Explore commercial whitespaces, research gaps, technological needs, and investment priorities at each stage of the alternative protein value chain.

Confirm steps for the course approval process in the department you’ll be working with. Generally, this involves submitting a course proposal form (see example from CU Boulder and sample completed proposal from Harvard University) and proposing a syllabus. Based on this information, the department chair will decide whether to approve the course. 

As part of the proposal form, you may need to demonstrate sufficient student demand for your prospective course. Feel free to reference this document, which contains news articles, student testimonials, and enrollment statistics from existing alternative protein courses.

To maximize your reach, consider cross-listing your course in other relevant departments and schools (e.g. business, public health, and sustainability). This may involve additional steps, so we recommend confirming the requirements for cross-listing early in the process.

During this meeting, your team should begin to generate ideas for designing an engaging course. Reflect on the most memorable courses you’ve completed — which components of these classes were particularly captivating? Perhaps you were engaged by conducting laboratory experiments, designing research proposals, or creating business plans. Create a list of these activities and determine what ideas are feasible given the available resources and equipment at your university.

Step 3: Build your syllabus

The syllabus should cover topics like course learning objectives, recommended prerequisites, assignments and grading, and an overarching course outline. Feel free to use our syllabus template to keep your course development team organized. Here are some example syllabi from courses at UNC Chapel Hill, Tufts University, Hebrew University, and Stanford University for you to reference. 

A key component of the syllabus is the learning objectives section which should work to answer what students in this course will be able to do by the end of the term. Establishing learning objectives early on helps guide your course development team to select activities and assessments that best support these objectives. Effective learning objectives must be measurable and actionable. Learn more about constructing learning objectives through Iowa State University’s revised Bloom’s taxonomy page.

Here are some sample learning objectives:

  • Communicate alternative protein technologies, challenges, and opportunities to the general public
  • Operate laboratory instruments to test protein activity and ingredient functionality
  • Develop a research proposal to investigate open questions in alternative protein science

The syllabus can be a powerful tool for promoting inclusion. As you begin to design your course, ask yourself—are there a variety of ways students can demonstrate learning? Are multiple perspectives included with each topic? Are the syllabus and course materials accessible? To evaluate the inclusivity of your syllabus, make use of Tufts University’s worksheet on inclusion by design or check out these example inclusive statements by Iowa State University.

Next, you’ll want to decide on course topics. Since the alternative protein field is new and multi-disciplinary, there may be topics unfamiliar to your instructor. Flag these topics and start thinking about potential guest lecturers who can fill these knowledge gaps. You can find guest speakers through our company database or collaborative researcher directory. Contact us if you would like to request a subject matter expert from GFI!

Here are some ideas for course topics:

GeneralThe case for rethinking meat
What is meat?
Environmental impacts
Health impacts
Consumer research
Policy landscape
Entrepreneurship
Plant-based meat​​Crop development
Ingredient optimization
End product formulation and manufacturing
Cultivated meatCell lines
Cell culture media
Bioprocess design
Scaffolding
End product considerations
FermentationTarget selection and design
Strain development
Feedstock optimization
Bioprocess design
End product formulation and manufacturing

Step 4: Obtain course approval

Once you draft your syllabus, contact GFI so we can provide feedback. Submit your finalized syllabus, course proposal form, and any other required documents to the department chair or other approving body.

Step 5: Design your course

If you haven’t already done so, familiarize yourself with the materials in our curriculum repository to prevent duplicative work. These materials are licensed under creative Commons BY 4.0. We encourage you to repurpose any relevant slides, as long as you give appropriate credit.

Example: This lecture was adapted from “Cellular Agriculture 101” by the David Kaplan Group at Tufts University, used under CC BY 4.0.

Revisit the topics that require guest lecturers. Consider reaching out to other professors at your university, alumni working in the alternative protein field, and industry representatives. Here’s another email template adapted from the Stanford Alt Protein Project’s email to potential guest lecturers. Consider integrating lab experiments, field trips, group projects, company or laboratory tours, and other interactive activities. “Shark Tank” is a popular final project: Students express their creativity and propose an alternative protein start-up as a research proposal idea. Student groups will turn in a six-page startup proposal and present a 15-minute pitch to the class. Another fun way to end the course is to have a class cooking competition or sensory evaluation.

Step 6: Promote your course

At least three months prior to the first date of enrollment, you should develop a plan to promote your course. Create promotional graphics and messaging to share via email and social media; here’s an example from the Chapel Hill Alt Protein Project.

Example student graphic

You can add your course to our alternative protein course database by completing this form. If your course is available to the public, we can also list it on our events page.

Coordinate with your department chair to announce the course to all students in their department. You should also reach out to chairs of other departments relevant to alternative protein, as well as deans who oversee relevant schools (e.g. business, public health, and sustainability).

Connect with other student organizations who may have interest in enrolling or publicizing your course. This could include groups focused on food science, social impact, sustainability, effective altruism, chemical engineering, public health, or global development, to name a few.

Reach underrepresented groups in STEM by connecting with student groups focused on diversity. In the United States, some examples include the American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). What similar organizations are common at universities in your country? Let us know!


Step 7: Launch your course and prepare for future iterations

Congratulations! Launching your course is a huge milestone. However, there’s more work to be done to guarantee the success of this course in future terms—especially if you want to expand the number of course offerings at your university.

Be sure to collect student feedback. Many universities have a system in place for this, but we also have a student impact survey that we encourage you to use. Surveying students at the end of the term will help you identify areas of high engagement and aspects of the course that can be improved in future offerings. You can also ask students what impacts the course had on their career options and research interests — this information will help bolster any proposals for majors, minors, and other educational programs.

Inspire other students to initiate courses by sharing your story! Reach out to us once your course is approved and let us know if you have an existing blog post or news article about your course so we can amplify it on our end!

Step 8: Help expand alternative protein education beyond your university

As one of the first student groups in the world to initiate an alternative protein course, there is tremendous potential for impact from sharing your resources and experiences with our global community of alternative protein educators.

Contribute your course materials to our curriculum repository. Once we have the data, we would love to share how many educators have adapted your materials, how many students have been reached, and in which countries. 

You can also help other student groups by sharing any useful templates, tools, and resources built by your team as you pursue your education-related initiatives. Feel free to send us these materials, and we will incorporate them into our hub of resources for student movement-builders!

If you collected student feedback through your university’s course evaluation system, please share the results with us. Any constructive feedback will help us improve our course-related resources, and positive testimonials will help boost the legitimacy of these programs.

How to integrate alternative protein modules into an existing course

An alternative protein module is a series of approximately one to five lectures that can be plugged into an existing course. The primary benefit of the module model is to allow alternative protein content to be integrated into existing courses without having to register and get approval for a new course. Through this model, there is also significant potential to reach and introduce alternative protein fundamentals to demographics that might not otherwise self-select courses explicitly focused on alternative proteins (e.g. learning about cultivated meat through a standard introductory tissue engineering course). Consequently, this section will mirror our previous section on “How to build a new alternative protein course,” but will exclude steps for obtaining approval for a new course.

Step 1: Secure faculty support

From your mapping exercise, you should have a list of professors who teach subjects relevant to alternative proteins. Determine which specific alternative protein topics would fit into various existing courses. For example, a module on crop development for plant-based meat could fit into a plant science course.

Reach out to each potential instructor via email. Here’s an email template adapted from the Stanford Alt Protein Project’s emails to prospective faculty. Refer to Step 1 of “How to build a new alternative protein course” for more tips.

Step 2: Meet with your module development team

Once an instructor agrees to integrate a module into their course, it’s time to assemble your module development team. If it would be helpful to have support from us during this initial meeting, please loop us in! Reference Step 2 of “How to build a new alternative protein course” for more details on what to cover in this initial meeting. 

Step 3: Decide on topics for each lecture

Select lecture topics relevant to the course containing your module. A plant biotechnology course, for example, could include topics such as crop development and ingredient optimization for plant-based meat, whereas a food processing course might cover end product considerations for plant-based meat, cultivated meat, and fermentation.

For additional topic ideas and recommendations for identifying guest lecturers, see Step 3 of “How to build a new alternative protein course”.

Step 4: Design your lectures

If you haven’t already done so, familiarize yourself with the materials in our curriculum repository to prevent duplicative work. These materials are licensed under Creative Commons BY 4.0. Many of the slide decks from existing alternative protein courses can be adapted for use in modules. We encourage you to repurpose any relevant slides, as long as you give appropriate credit.

Example: This lecture was adapted from “Cellular Agriculture 101” by the David Kaplan Group at Tufts University, used under CC BY 4.0.

Refer to Step 5 of “How to build a new alternative protein course” for tips on reaching out to guest speakers and integrating engaging activities.

Step 5: Launch your module and prepare for future iterations

Congratulations on launching your alternative protein module! In order to improve your module for future terms—or to increase your chances of expanding it into a full course—be sure to collect student feedback. To learn more about the importance of student surveys, see Step 7 of “How to build a new alternative protein course”.

Step 6: Help expand alternative protein education beyond your university

Now that you have experience designing and implementing your alternative protein module, you can multiply your impact by showing other students the ropes! Open-sourcing your teaching resources and sharing your success story can be immensely beneficial for anyone navigating this process for the first time. Learn how you can advance alternative protein education beyond your university from Step 8 of “How to build a new alternative protein course”.

How to advocate for majors, minors, specializations, and suggested tracks

Let’s begin by defining these educational programs.

What is an alternative protein major or degree program?

An alternative protein degree program is a curated cluster of educational programming that includes existing classes from relevant disciplines (including both the natural and social sciences) as well as two to four dedicated alternative protein courses. The degree program should equip students with a comprehensive set of knowledge and skills necessary to become alternative protein scientists and innovators. This will help build reliable talent streams and help industry partners learn where to recruit talent with such specialized knowledge.

What is an alternative protein minor, certificate, track, or specialization?

An alternative protein minor, track, or specialization is a curated cluster of educational programming within an existing degree program that may include classes from relevant disciplines in addition to one to three dedicated alternative protein courses. Currently, there is a cellular agriculture certificate being developed by David Kaplan at Tufts University that includes two dedicated cellular agriculture courses (one lab- and one lecture-based) and two courses from the nutrition school (including one on techno-economic and life cycle assessment development).

In any of these cases, you’ll need at least one to two dedicated alternative protein courses before proposing a new major, minor, specialization, or other program. Most universities have a formal process for approving new programs; keep in mind creating a major can take several years from conception to actual student enrollments in the new program. To determine the required steps at your university, search “proposing a new major at [university name]” or inquire at the registrar’s office.

With the exception of student-designed majors (see SDMs at the University of New Hampshire or build your own degree at National University of Singapore), most majors and other educational programs are typically proposed by faculty members. Considering the long time frame for approving new programs, you should identify a faculty champion or cluster of faculty champions who can commit to the entire process. To get a sense of the level of detail that goes into a program proposal, check out Rochester Institute of Technology’s complete proposal for their B.S. Human-Centered Computing degree. For more guidance, the Cal State system offers tips on completing a successful program proposal.

In some cases, departments can create suggested tracks without having to go through the long, formal process for establishing new programs. To propose a new track, reach out to your department head or chair.

Whether you’re reaching out to a potential faculty champion or suggesting a new track to your department chair, be prepared to answer the following prompts:

  • Provide a brief description of the proposed program
  • What are the educational and career outcomes of this program?
  • How does this program advance the university’s mission and values?
  • Describe the justification and documented need for this program

To answer these questions, check out our notes on building alternative protein programs and majors at universities. If it would be helpful to have support from us during any meetings with university administrators or potential faculty champions, please loop us in!

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Resource

Massive open online course

Enroll in GFI’s open-access online course to learn about the science of plant-based and cultivated meat.

The administrative steps of establishing new courses, majors, and other programs can take some time, but there are several informal activities related to advancing alternative protein education that you can pursue in parallel. If you’ve already prepared educational materials for your prospective formal course (or module), these can double as building blocks for a student-led fellowship. You might even find these informal programs can have a wider reach! Here are some examples:

Launching an introductory alt protein fellowship

The Alt Protein Project chapters at UNC Chapel Hill, Brown University, and Johns Hopkins University collaborated to create an introductory fellowship for anyone interested in learning about alternative protein science, motivations, entrepreneurship, and careers. Their first cohort drew in more than 50 people from around the globe ranging from high school students in Hong Kong to biochemical engineers in India to food writers in North Carolina. Similarly, the Cambridge University Alt. Protein Society hosts an 8-week seminar on alternative proteins. Check out their curriculum and sign up for the next round here.

Building a DIY major guide

The Wageningen Alt Protein Project is developing a “course guide” to help students direct their studies to alternative proteins. Depending on the production platform a student is most interested in, the guide will suggest relevant courses to enroll in—even absent courses and majors—for each term at Wageningen University to support building specialized skills relevant to alternative proteins. This is a great example of a high-impact, scalable resource that utilizes an institutions’ existing courses while also helping students further their alternative protein education!

Share what you learn and subscribe for updates

If you used this guide to build a course, major, or other program, we’d love to help amplify it! Sharing your experience will inspire others to bring alternative protein education to their institutions. 

In our continuous effort to improve this resource, feedback is always welcome. You can also use this form to share additional templates and tools created by your team; we will add these to our hub of resources for student-movement builders with proper attribution. Please feel free to also share student testimonials, enrollment statistics, and general tips and tricks for accelerating alternative protein education.

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Contact GFI

Christina Aguila

UNIVERSITY INNOVATION SPECIALIST

Creating a new educational program can be challenging, but we’re here to help! We can assist by reviewing your syllabus, meeting with your curriculum design team, and more. If you would like additional support expanding access to alternative protein education, please reach out to Christina Aguila. You can also share student testimonials or any helpful tips for our global community of alternative protein educators.

Christina aguila
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Alternative protein curriculum development and support

We’ve recognized a need for more alternative protein sources in the classroom. Now, you can take advantage of our curriculum materials and resources exclusively created for students and professors.

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Alternative protein course database

Our alternative protein course database maps educational programs focused on alternative proteins and their enabling technologies.

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Student resource guide

This guide will help you steer through the exciting world of alternative proteins.

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Massive open online course

Enroll in GFI’s open-access online course to learn about the science of plant-based and cultivated meat.