Getting to Know Dawn Merrill July 2017

Dawn Merrill

It’s fair to say that being a member of my local section of IFT presented me the opportunities I have today,” says IFT Board of Directors member Dawn Merrill.

Merrill first got involved with IFT as a student at Oregon State University, attending Oregon Section (OSIFT) events and beginning to form a network that would kick-start her career after college. While in school Merrill served as the section’s student representative, and after college, she became its director-at-large. “I loved that role as I had a vote which helped influence our direction as an organization,” she reflects.

Eventually Merrill was elected OSIFT president, which afforded her many opportunities, including participating in a pilot program for section unification, presenting to IFT’s Board of Directors, and attending Leadership Summits. During the unification process, Merrill was challenged to present the section’s ideas before the IFT Board, something that was both intimidating and fun and ultimately opened the door for her own election to the IFT Board of Directors. “I was challenged to summarize our section’s experience with a 5-7-5 haiku,” she says, which was “an exercise in comedy and lightheartedness in an otherwise intimidating situation.”

Over the years, Merrill says she has also embraced finding “success in failure.” “Quite honestly, I’ve learned the most after some of our creative initiatives failed or we didn’t necessarily conclude with the result we had in mind,” she explains. These experiences, though, have shown her the power that comes from using collective brainpower to get great things done.

Volunteering has brought Merrill many moments that have helped build her professional confidence; volunteering has “given her guts,” she says. “I learned to overcome shyness and fear by forcing myself to stand up in front of crowds at dinner meetings, emcee events, lead a live webinar, and stand in front of a camera and lights during interviews,” says Merrill, a Certified Food Scientist. “I think there is a volunteer opportunity in IFT for every personality and opportunities exist for us all to bust out of our comfort zones and try new things!”

While Merrill says that volunteering can be time-consuming, her company, Kerr Concentrates, is very supportive of the time she spends on it. “When I’m out talking to others within the industry, I am representing my company as well, which has led to new business,” she says. “I’ve also brought back leadership skills so my employer sees that as a win-win. I would encourage anyone considering volunteering to check in with their employer and review the volunteer job description with their boss so that they have the support needed.”

She also notes that not everyone has to be president of a section to make an impact. “There are so many ways to volunteer—like distributing name tags at dinner meetings, or starting a social media group so members can share content with one another, or participating on a committee to review letters from students in need of a scholarship,” says Merrill. “Remember, no one person can do it all, so find the right job for you given the time that you have to give. Every small part adds up, and collectively, we make IFT pretty great for our members.”

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Vice President, Volunteer Leadership Development
Executive Director, Feeding Tomorrow

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Manager, Volunteer Leadership Development and Recognition