Meet the Team


Dr. Valente Alvarez, Director of the Food Industries Center
Valente Alvarez, Director, has over 30 years of combined experience in industry and academia. His expertise includes management and new product development in the food industry as well as in extension, research and teaching. His professional experience includes positions as Professor and Head of the Food Processing Pilot Plants at ENCB-IPN, Mexico; Head of the Food Technology Section at the National Laboratories of Industrial Development in Mexico; Program Training Coordinator at US-AID and Michigan Partners of the Americas, and Corporate Coordinator of Quality Assurance and Product Development at Country Fresh, Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan. Valente is responsible for directing, marketing, promotion, and all daily aspects of running the Food Industries Center. He graduated from the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City, Mexico with a Bachelor of Biochemical Engineering degree, from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan with a MS and Ph.D. in Food Science degrees.

Heather Dean, Program Coordinator, coordinates all activities related to the Food Industries Center (FIC), including accounts, marketing plans, and short course development. She has been a part of the FIC team for 3 years and is responsible for contacts with industry, organizations, government agencies, faculty, staff, and students. Heather earned her B.S. in Food Business Management and A.S. in Agricultural Business from The Ohio State University.

Gary Wenneker, Pilot Plant Supervisor, is responsible for coordinating work in the dairy pilot plant in regards to teaching, research, and processing activities. Additional duties include equipment maintenance, and building and laboratory safety coordinator. Gary has 30 years in the food industry with 20 years as supervisor of the FIC Pilot Plants. Gary received his B.A. from the Ohio State University.

Steven Simmons, Pilot Plant Supervisor, is responsible for coordinating work in the food processing pilot plant regarding teaching, research, and processing activities. Steven received his B.A. and M.S. from the Department of Food Science and Technology at The Ohio State University.  Upon completion of his M.S., and prior to joining the FIC Team, Steven worked as a Quality Assurance Manager in the fresh and fresh-cut produce industry.