Colette Mayfield Brings Passion to Food Safety Training
Colette LaViolette Mayfield is one of 18 professionals within the Agency who teach FSIS technical training courses. She began her FSIS career with the Office of Employee Experience and Development’s Center for Learning (CFL) as a regional public health training coordinator. Since her early days with FSIS, she has adapted the way she works to stay on top of changes in the Agency and other situations such as the current pandemic.
Role of Public Health Coordinator
Mayfield teaches FSIS employees the principles and concepts of food safety, including food microbiology; sanitation; product sampling and analysis; regulatory compliance and enforcement; and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. She also teaches the principles and concepts of non-food safety consumer protection as it relates to FSIS-regulated product, including labeling, process familiarization, restricted ingredients and standards of identity. Additionally, she teaches regulators how to verify the regulations to determine the establishment’s compliance, what to do in noncompliance situations and how to document their actions in the Public Health Information System.
Mayfield’s work involves teaching inspection program personnel how to do their jobs correctly and in a manner that is sound and consistent across the country. This approach supports regulatory and enforcement consistency in actions the Agency takes concerning establishments — not just in the United States, but in other countries as well. It also ensures consumers receive food that is safe and truthfully represented.
“I love the feeling of being able to break down complex concepts into simple concepts that can be easily understood, and ultimately help employees to not just know how to perform their jobs, but to be able to do their job with confidence,” Mayfield said.
Rolling with the Changes in 2020
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all CFL training has been converted from an in-person format to a virtual platform. Mayfield and her team had to learn new ways to simulate the live classroom as much as possible while adapting to an array of collaborative tools.
In May of 2020, Mayfield successfully led the team converting the weeklong Further Processing and Labeling Inspection Course; it was presented virtually for the first time in July. Mayfield was also part of the team that converted the Inspection Methods and Thermal Processing courses. CFL selected a platform for its virtual training that offers chat and other feedback tools. In addition to converting the material for the new platform, Mayfield and her team had to learn how to use all the virtual tools available.
FSIS empowers Mayfield to be successful through strong management support and — you guessed it — training. Over the years, she has learned to be proficient in teaching and developing highly scientific and technical training. Pre-COVID-19, FSIS districts, inspectors and establishments hosted Mayfield in onsite visits where she could learn firsthand what’s new in the industry, observe how inspectors do their jobs and understand the logistics and limitations of what goes on in an establishment. These visits helped Mayfield stay informed with the work taking place at the field locations and develop effective training courses.
“Ms. Mayfield is diligent and passionate about training and public health,” said Dr. Hala Bessyoung, Mayfield’s supervisor and Training Operation Branch Chief. Mayfield strives to continuously improve her effectiveness as a trainer. Before delivering her first Thermal Processing course, Mayfield visited two Philadelphia District thermal processing establishments — a glass container process and a metal can process — to improve her understanding of each process. She has also participated in technical training, such as canning processes, ingredient safety and sausage formulation, and has shadowed other trainers to learn more about their expertise and experience.
Mayfield is constantly developing training, teaching or preparing to teach. Everything she does supports those tasks, including meetings with her team to figure out how to simplify the math calculations that are part of a course; studying new directives to present material more simply; printing material and preparing notes to teach; or engaging with students virtually while teaching a module. She also enjoys learning new topics, gaining new skills and navigating new ways of teaching, as well as the challenges of leading.
Collaboration is Key to Her Success
The FSIS core values serve as the foundation of her success and the working relationship she has with her peers. “My strength is in collaboration, giving others’ ideas a voice while holding them and myself accountable, which empowers all of us to find solutions to problems every day,” said Mayfield. She describes her co-workers as “probably the most brilliant minds in the Agency — they are scientifically and technically smart, very flexible, outgoing, assertive and dedicated to the students and getting the job done.”
Mayfield completed her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, then went on to earn a Master of Public Health degree in 2015 from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. She began her career as a drinking water enforcement officer and environmental chemist with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Atlanta, Georgia, and was later detailed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of their Executive Leadership Program.
She enjoyed the work but once her detail was over, Mayfield began looking for jobs in public health with promotion opportunities and a public speaking component. When she saw this FSIS training position on USAJOBS.gov, she knew she had found her “dream job.” It incorporates her education in chemistry, as well as her experience working in public health with CDC and EPA. A former award-winning member of Toastmasters International, Mayfield was comfortable with public speaking and felt fully up to the challenge.