Faces of Food Safety: Meet Michelle Merry of FSIS

Visual information specialist Michele Meri has worked at FSIS for over seven years, primarily supporting the graphic design needs of the Office of Employee Experience and Development (OEED). “As a visual communication savvy, I support my team members with concepts and ideas to help transform the way FSIS trains and develops employees,” said Merry. Much of his work involves developing training for inspectors, where he uses his visual design expertise to integrate interactive video, touch screens, and question-and-answer capabilities into training sessions.

Using technology to improve FSIS training
Several years ago, inspection training consisted mostly of folders filled with pages of photocopied documents. In 2018, OEED began transforming training for FSIS inspectors by incorporating visualizations. The process began after the laptops were distributed to the counties so that all FSIS employees had access to the tools they needed for training.

At FSIS, Myrie uses all his skills as a designer. His role in creating training for OEED includes videography, photography, graphics and animation. A typical business day for Myrie involves processing graphics requests from OEED clients. These requests can include PowerPoint slides, document layouts, or visual collateral such as illustrated characters, icons, and buttons.

Myrie is currently focused on improving the visual content that FSIS uses for training, integrating 3D modeling and animation to improve the user experience, helping employees understand the material and increasing engagement during the training session. 3D modeling and animation would be significant improvements, particularly in the training components for disease identification. To ensure the model’s accuracy, Myrie is working closely with Des Moines-based Public Health Veterinarian Shoshana Tannenbaum to obtain the high-resolution close-up images of the cows’ head needed to create the 3D model. Merry said, “I feel very satisfied with my job as I am part of an innovative team that has completely changed the approach to training and development at FSIS.”

Michael Meri

AAFE Award Winner
In December 2021, Myrie received the Administrator’s Award for Excellence (AAFE) in Diversity and Inclusion for his role as chair of the OEED’s Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee (EEOAC). He led the development of a quarterly EEOAC newsletter highlighting OEED’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Of the award, Merry said, “It was totally unexpected. I was aware of the appreciation and support I received for my work, but I never imagined I would be recognized at this level. It was such a good feeling.”

Salina Najera, Training Modernization Specialist at OEED said, “Michelle is a creative and innovative employee who is always looking for ways to deliver cutting edge visual content for training. When working with clients, he strives to exceed their expectations with his work product and always has an open approach to new ideas.”

Becoming a member of the FSIS team
He began his career with FSIS as a contract graphic designer for one year before becoming federally employed as a visual information specialist in September 2015. The transition to the federal position made sense for Myrie, who sought job security to support his young family. Myrie’s first assignment was to develop an animated video series to train food inspectors in the export certification process. Once the animated series was completed, he was shown a video of the slaughter using virtual reality goggles and was excited to learn everything he could about the new technology and how it could be used to improve the agency’s training.

Merry describes his co-workers as the best group of people he has ever worked professionally with. Everyone wants to contribute and respects the feelings and points of view of others. He believes that it all starts at the top – that leadership influences everyone to work with each other in a professional and harmonious manner. Of the four core values ​​of Information Security Management—Accountability, Collaboration, Empowerment, and Solution Oriented—Miri said, “I believe it is imperative that all core values ​​of FSIS be equally owned. Leadership plays a great role in encouraging employees to become new leaders, and each influences of these values ​​on your success.”

Previously, as a graphic designer in the private sector, Meri worked as a writer, content editor, marketer and project manager on several projects. In his current role at FSIS, he has always been aware of the audience when creating materials; For example, awareness of diversity is applied to each task. He does not want to offend anyone with his work, so he pays attention to what is written, how it is written, and whether it is suitable for the intended audience.

More about Meri
Born in Panama but raised in Montgomery County, Maryland, Merry graduated from the University of Maryland’s global campus where he majored in graphic communications. He chose this major because it took him beyond the level of a graphic designer and taught him how to be an effective communicator.

Long before his interest in graphic communication, Merry served in the US Army from 1990 to 1994. He joined the army because, in Merry’s words, “a young lady broke my heart, and I needed a vacation.” Merry, an Army track and wheel vehicle mechanic, considers his military experience to have prepared him for life, and he appreciates the opportunities FSIS provides to former service members.

Single father to 9-year-old Zander and 15-year-old Kaya, Meri enjoys cycling, swimming, strength training, and playing basketball. Other hobbies include storytelling and developing animation. His dream is to create a superhero animated series.

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