Michele Mercier

"I decided to apply, because I realized that public health would encompass so many of my interests and so many of my experiences and things I cared about: from sustainable and safe food supply to occupational health and safety, to social justice issues to health disparities, access to health care and all the rest.”
Michele Mercier
Michele Mercier

Michele Mercier has always had a passion for social justice and environmental health. Her studies at Boston College, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1987 with a dual degree in English and philosophy, were informed by liberation theology, which emphasizes correcting the social injustices that cause and perpetuate poverty. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Michele then embarked on a path that few, if any, have traveled. “I wanted to take time and live life in a different way.”

Michele enrolled in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and moved from Michigan to Montana to work in a shelter for battered women and children. “One of the pillars or values that was forming for me was social justice,” she remembers. Michele began to consider a career in social work, but there was room in her life for more exploration first.

Michele moved to Seattle in 1989 and worked a temporary job in a community where the majority of the population fished commercially in Alaska. “This was back in March 1989 when the Exxon-Valdez disaster happened. A week later I was on a plane to go to Sitka, Alaska. I had very little planned. I just knew that I wanted an adventure.” During her time in Alaska, she worked on a fishing boat, and in the off-season she tutored for a boarding school for mostly native Alaskan children.

Eventually, it was time to return to Michigan. Michele apprenticed as an organic food grower and worked as the Director of Publicity and Advertising at the Shaman Drum Bookstore. Once again immersed in the lifestyle of the professors and students around her, Michele decided to return to school.

“I met one of the professors in the school of public health through mutual friends and we ended up having this great conversation,” she remembers. “It expanded my awareness and perception of public health. It was really incredible. I decided to apply, because I realized that public health would encompass so many of my interests and so many of my experiences and things I cared about: from sustainable and safe food supply to occupational health and safety, to social justice issues to health disparities, access to health care and all the rest.”

Michele entered the School of Public Health in 1996, with a focus in the area of health behavior and health education. She received the Margaret Dow Towsley Scholarship from CEW in 1997. During her time at Michigan, she became involved with Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, a part of the Americorps program. She is now working for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as a supervisor for their Public Health Prevention Service program, where she serves as an advisor and trainer for public health fellows who have followed her footsteps.