Kate Creutzinger, Grace Lewis and Luis Peña-Lévano have been hired as faculty members by the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, representing the first tenure-track faculty positions on campus funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub. These positions are 60% research and outreach and 40% teaching.
The Dairy Innovation Hub, which launched in 2019, harnesses research and development at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville and UW–River Falls to keep Wisconsin’s dairy community at the global forefront in producing nutritious dairy products in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable manner. It is supported by a $7.8 million annual investment by the State of Wisconsin.
“A fundamental component of the Hub is conducting critically important research to make a difference in the dairy community. The talented faculty hired to develop and implement this research will also be part of educating and training the next generation of dairy professionals through teaching and co-curricular activities, such as undergraduate research. UW-River Falls is very excited to welcome our initial cohort of three tenure-track faculty who bring significant expertise in the areas of animal welfare and behavior, dairy foods processing, and economic and community development,” said Dale Gallenberg, CAFES dean. “Their work will directly benefit farmers and others in the dairy community regionally, state-wide and beyond.” Creutzinger, Lewis and Peña-Lévano will start in August.
Creutzinger was hired as an assistant professor specializing in dairy animal welfare. In this role, she will establish a research and outreach program that will support Wisconsin dairy farmers and service providers through projects focused on dairy animal welfare. Creutzinger’s research will leverage the university’s laboratory farm with 100 milking cows and 100 youngstock as well as opportunities with commercial dairy farmers in Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. As a faculty member funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub, she will also have the ability to collaborate with colleagues at UW-River Falls, UW-Madison and UW-Platteville.
Creutzinger will teach undergraduate courses focusing on dairy and animal science with an emphasis on dairy cattle management and welfare. She will also advise students majoring in dairy science and mentor students with research projects related to her areas of expertise.
“I’m incredibly excited to start working on dairy welfare at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls,” said Creutzinger. “It is my hope to improve the lives of Wisconsin dairy cows and farmers through my appointment at UWRF.”
Creutzinger earned her BS (2014) and Ph.D. (2020) in animal science from The Ohio State University and her MS (2016) in large animal clinical science from University of Saskatchewan. She is currently a post-doc at the University of Guelph working on the welfare of male dairy calves. Creutzinger’s doctoral research focused on the effect of the social environment on transition dairy cow behavior and health with the goal of improving the management of cows housed in groups at calving. Her future interests involve the improvement of dairy cattle quality of life used in various agriculture systems by developing a robust teaching and research program focused on applied behavior, welfare, and sustainability.
Lewis was hired as an assistant professor specializing in dairy processing. She will develop a research and outreach program that supports Wisconsin dairy processors, entrepreneurs, farmers and service providers by generating research focused on technology, product development and processing systems in the dairy foods space. Lewis’ research will leverage the university’s newly remodeled Dairy Pilot Plant and opportunities with commercial dairy processors in Wisconsin. As with all faculty funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub, Lewis will join a collaborative cohort of colleagues at UW-River Falls, UW-Madison and UW-Platteville who routinely work together on research and mentor undergraduate and graduate students.
Lewis will also teach undergraduate courses in dairy manufacturing and food science with an emphasis on dairy processing and human health. She will advise students in the Food Science and Technology Program and mentor students with research projects in her area of expertise.
“The Dairy Innovation Hub initiative excites me, and I am so glad to be part of this initial cohort,” said Lewis. “With such a collaborative environment, phenomenal students and many local dairy farmers and processers, I am thrilled to begin my research program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.”
Lewis earned a BS (2018), and Ph.D. (2021) in food science at Pennsylvania State University. Her doctoral research focuses on dairy processing techniques that affect protein functionality and overall food physical properties. Specifically, Lewis is a member of a research team exploring the relationship between dairy processing operations and how food nutrients function considering the publics’ goal of minimally processed and clean label foods.
Peña-Lévano was hired as an assistant professor specializing in community economic development. In this position, he will establish a research and outreach program that will support Wisconsin dairy farmers, agriculture start-ups, rural entrepreneurs and regional partnerships. Peña-Lévano’s research will leverage new and established connections with the agribusiness community in Wisconsin and region. As a faculty member funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub, he will have the ability to collaborate with colleagues at UW-River Falls, UW-Madison and UW-Platteville and mentor undergraduate and graduate students.
Peña-Lévano will teach undergraduate courses in regional economics, agricultural economics and agribusiness management. He will also advise students in the agricultural business, agricultural studies and (agricultural) marketing communications programs. He will also develop co-curricular opportunities for students that align with his research program.
“I am honored to become part of the agricultural economics team and the Dairy Innovation Hub,” he said. “I am looking forward to this exciting opportunity of collaborating in expanding our knowledge on dairy and regional economics, finance and international trade.”
Peña-Lévano earned his BS (2009) in food science and agriculture engineering from Zamorano University in Honduras, a MS (2012) in agriculture and applied economics from the University of Georgia and Ph.D. (2017) from Purdue University in agricultural economics, specializing in international trade, optimization and finance. He is currently an assistant professor at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore with an extension focus on community and economic development. Peña-Lévano’s doctoral research focused on climate change interactions with agriculture, carbon taxes, forestry sequestration and food security.
Steve Kelm, a professor in food and animal science and also the campus champion for the hub’s efforts at UW-River Falls, is excited to see longer-term research initiatives take hold on campus.
“Teaching is the primary focus for current CAFES faculty, and the scale of much of our work is defined by needs of semester-long courses. These new faculty members will foster long-term, multi-disciplinary and cross-campus collaborations to benefit the dairy community. It’s an exciting time for us,” Kelm said.