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Allen Levine.

Allen Levine will become dean of the new College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Science in November.

Allen Levine named dean of CFANS

Q&A with an interdisciplinary leader

By Gayla Marty

Brief, Oct. 25, 2006

The announcement this week of Allen Levine's appointment as dean of the new College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) on the Twin Cities campus came after an extensive national search. As one of the University's own, he currently serves as professor and head of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition as well as director of the Minnesota Obesity Center.

Levine joined the faculty in 1981 and today holds joint appointments in the departments of surgery, psychiatry and medicine. For more than 25 years, he worked at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center near Fort Snelling in Minneapolis, nearly 18 years as deputy associate chief of staff for research. More recently, he has commuted daily from his home in Mendota Heights to department offices in Food Science and Nutrition on the Twin Cities campus in St. Paul.

He has published more than 260 scientific papers and more than 85 review articles, editorials, and book reviews. He has received millions of dollars of grant funding and has won major national awards for his research efforts. He also sits on several national editorial boards and advisory boards, in addition to serving as a journal reviewer and grant reviewer.

Upon approval by the Board of Regents, Levine will begin his new appointment Nov. 13, moving up the hill on Eckles Avenue to the dean's office in Coffey Hall, which overlooks the St. Paul campus mall. "The campus is lovely at all levels," he says, "the experimental fields, landscape plantings, incredibly sophisticated laboratories, and hosts of students and faculty."

Levine talked Monday about the new college and his work.

Brief: What's your history with Minnesota?

Levine: I grew up in New Jersey and completed my undergraduate work at Rutgers University. I came to botany kind of by accident, while changing my major from music to pre-med, but I loved it so much I stayed. In 1970, I came to Minnesota to study wetland ecology with [retired Regents Professor] Eville Gorham. He's like a king in his field and I remember the first time I met him--there he was, sitting in a sweater in his office, the guy who discovered acid rain. When he took me under his wing as a graduate student, it was an incredible honor.

What do you love about your work and your field? What's your passion?

I changed fields after completing my M.S. in botany at Minnesota--to nutrition, the discipline in which I completed my Ph.D. Since 1978, I've pursued research related to neural regulation of food intake....I'm interested in the role of the endogenous opioids (such as endorphins) in the pleasure associated with eating. That led me to apply for a grant to fund an obesity center through the National Institutes of Health--to conduct research in all areas of obesity research, from molecules to behavior. Together with a great team of investigators, I have directed this center for ten years. We recently received $5.5 million to fund the center for another five years.

What particular strengths and gifts do you bring to the new College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences?

I spent around 18 years at the Minneapolis VA [Veterans Administration] Medical Center as an administrator of the Research Service, and I also headed a team of scientists that evaluated many VA medical centers around the country. Together with my research and teaching, this administrative experience led to an understanding of how to work with teams of faculty, students and staff. I've also been president or executive director of four nonprofit organizations on a volunteer basis. I believe that all of these experiences have taught me about consensus building and striving for excellence at the organizational and individual level.

How is CFANS unique in the nation and the world? How does it make the University of Minnesota distinctive and strong?

The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS)

The new college was created July 1, 2006, and brought together the former College of Natural Resources, College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Science, and Department of Food Science and Nutrition. Today it includes

* 14 undergraduate majors and 14 graduate programs
* About 1,800 undergraduates and more than 800 graduate students
* Nearly 270 faculty members and 800 staff members

For more information about CFANS, see the college profile.

Our uniqueness resides in our relevance to real problems. We ensure the safety of the food and water supply. We care about having enough food and worry that some may have too much food. We turn biomass into biofuels. We work with molecules, microbes, plants and animals in the water, on the land and in the sky. We use all the tools of big science to make our planet a friendlier, more sustainable place.

We're interested in understanding how the provisions of the land and water lead to healthier and more fulfilling lives. Integrating natural resources sciences with agricultural and food sciences creates a holistic framework in which to realize this vision.

CFANS is one of the few colleges that studies food, agricultural and natural resource sciences at a university that also has a strong academic health center, a major institute of public affairs, a superb law school and a first-rate business school. Our faculty work together with members of all these units, making for a unique source of strong, cross-disciplinary studies. Our students have great opportunities in interacting with students and teachers across a wide spectrum of interests related to agriculture and natural resources.

How do you see the new college in relationship to the University's statewide presence?

Our college is dedicated to the land-grant mission of working with all citizens of Minnesota in discovery, education and service related to the health of our land, air and water. Our mission is relevant to the needs of Minnesota--the translation of basic science into solution-driven science. Many of our faculty are environmental scientists and will work closely with the Institute on the Environment. The college has a research and outreach centers positioned in strategic sites around the state, which conduct relevant research and educate the general public. We also work closely with the Extension Service throughout Minnesota.

What do you want faculty and staff members across the state to know about you?

That I love scientific inquiry--that I enjoy sharing this pursuit with colleagues and students--and that I care deeply about working in an environment that is supportive and respectful, that encourages freedom of thought leading to distinction of ideas.

For more information, see Levine's faculty bio and the news release.

See also the Department of Food Science and Nutrition and the Minnesota Obesity Center.