WASHINGTON – The International Dairy Foods Association introduced the 30 professionals who will comprise the next class of the organization’s NextGen Leadership Program.

Nominating companies identified candidates for the program as being among the industry’s leaders of the future, and the IDFA chose the people who will participate based on their career experience and the scope of their responsibilities.

The program aims to support, guide and prepare mid- to senior-level dairy industry professionals for the next big steps of their careers. The yearlong program, which is only open to employees of IDFA member companies, helps participants build professional relationships, hone leadership skills and learn how to best advocate for the dairy industry.

“IDFA and current dairy business leaders have made it a priority to develop future leaders for our industry who can manage disruption, advocate for sound policy and lead with integrity,” said Michael Dykes, DVM, the IDFA’s president and chief executive officer. “That’s why I’m so proud to welcome this fourth NextGen Leadership class — some of the best and brightest men and women rising through the ranks of our industry. IDFA’s NextGen Leadership Program will prepare them to manage disruption, embrace change and lead our industry into a new era.”

“Our industry leadership is committed to preparing for the workforce of the future and this program is designed to cultivate that next generation of leadership one cohort at a time,” said Colin Newman, IDFA chief of staff. “The caliber of candidates selected for (this year’s class) is exceptional and we are confident they will all make valuable and positive contributions to this year’s program.”

The 2022-23 class members are:

• Nathan Bass, vice president of operations, Valley Queen Cheese

• Gale Beard, Director, quality assurance, Grande Cheese Company

• Melissa Bischoff, director, milk procurement, Leprino Foods

• Corey Brower, director - R&D, Saputo Dairy USA

• Brian Carden, vice president of sales & marketing, Crystal Creamery, Inc.

• Steven Christiansen, VP of HR and OD, Idaho Milk Products

• Rylen Dickey, category manager – ingredients, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc.

• Dakonya Freis, VP-product management & marketing, Nelson-Jameson Inc.

• Jeff Galbraith, director of operations, Continental Dairy Facilities LLC

• Grant Gondell, head of global commodities, United Dairymen of Arizona

• Erin Graf, Leader - total rewards & HR operations, Darigold, Inc.

• Ben Hoperich, dairy category manager, Abbott Labs

• Heather Krebsbach, director - operational quality, Sargento Foods Inc.

• Ana Leach, assistant general counsel, Land O'Lakes, Inc.

• Edward Learoyd, vice president, safety, food safety, quality, regulatory, Great Lakes Cheese Company

• Jose Maldonado, R&D – lead, Lala US Inc.

• Matthew Maxson, VP, corporate controller, California Dairies, Inc.

• Ryan Murphy, director, national sales & operations, Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc.

• Mark Petersen, ingredients sales manager, Valley Milk LLC

• Chris Pritchard, chief financial officer, DairyAmerica, Inc.

• Matthew Ryan, Director, operations and capital management, Hershey Creamery Company

• Casey Sallander, CFO - Kemps LLC and Central, Dairy Farmers of America

• Sarah Schmidt, vice president of public affairs, Associated Milk Producers Inc.

• Billie Shaffer, vice president, product strategic management, Glanbia Nutritionals

• Jason Smith, director of sales and logistics, Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, Inc.

• Sean Steichen, director of sales, Diversified Foods, Inc.

• Blake Tangen, director of supply chain & risk management, First District Association

• Klazien Voogt, general manager, Columbia River Technologies

• Jeff Wilkerson, supply chain operations leader, Kroger Co.

• Matt Zimbric, senior director of cheese technology, Foremost Farms USA

IDFA NextGen class 2022 2023 leadership program International Dairy Foods Associaiton(Graphic: IDFA)