TAMU-CC Kinesiology Department Earns Coveted CASCE Accreditation for Undergraduate, Graduate Programs

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – When it comes to training athletes to perform at optimum levels, the gold standard is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS). These professionals design exercise programs that utilize strength training, aerobic conditioning, and other methods to improve the performance of competitive athletes or teams from the high school level all the way to the professional leagues.

Overseeing the strength and conditioning profession is the Council of Accreditation of Strength and Conditioning Education (CASCE). CASCE accreditation, which is the highest level of accreditation in the field, is a non-governmental rigorous peer-review process that takes two years to complete.

This summer, CASCE announced that Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s undergraduate and graduate kinesiology programs were added to a short list of 12 accredited programs in the world. The Island University’s undergraduate kinesiology program is one of only three CASCE-accredited programs in Texas; additionally, TAMU-CC offers the first and only CASCE-accredited graduate program in Texas.

“Attaining the CASCE accreditation is the culmination of two years of work within the department. We are quite literally among the first to achieve this recognition,” said Dr. Don Melrose, TAMU-CC Professor and Chair of the Department of Kinesiology. “Having our students go through this accredited program will allow them to sit for the world’s most widely recognized strength and conditioning certification test. Being on the front end of this accreditation effort is sure to help brand our programs and TAMU-CC as a destination of choice for this type of training.”

The CASCE accreditation replaces the kinesiology program’s Educational Recognition Program (ERP) status, which it has held for over 10 years.

“This accreditation sets us apart from a lot of other institutions and it totally changes the game on how the profession is educated and perceived in the performance world,” said Dr. Frank Spaniol, TAMU-CC Regents Professor of Kinesiology. “We’re one of only nine undergraduate programs in the U.S. At the graduate level, there are only three in the world, and we are the only program from California to North Carolina — this is a big deal. In addition, we are the only online graduate CASCE program in the world.”

Spaniol also said the CASCE accreditation will prove especially critical in 2030 when only candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in a strength and conditioning-related field from CASCE-accredited programs will be eligible to sit for the CSCS certification exam. Currently, candidates for the exam need only have a bachelor’s degree or be enrolled as a college senior at an accredited institution and have a CPR/AED certification.

He adds that the CSCS certification is going to be a requirement for individuals who aspire to work with athletes at the college and professional levels, such as the NBA, NFL, and MLB, to name a few.

“We take immense pride in the Island University’s role as a trailblazing CASCE-accredited institution — not only in Texas but across the world,” said Dr. Kelly M. Miller, TAMU-CC President and CEO. “Early adoption means our graduates will be ready for the CSCS certification exam and can land their dream job now — seven years ahead of the 2030 exam rule change. This is a significant benefit for our Islanders.”

Emily Paulison ’23 works as a Kinesiology Department graduate assistant and is pursuing her MS in the field. She says early accreditation demonstrates the department’s dedication to the growth of the kinesiology program and especially to the craft of strength and conditioning.

“Being an educated, skilled, credible professional in the strength and conditioning field is necessary for everyone’s safety and well-being,” Paulison said. “We are lucky to have faculty and staff who are willing to build a curriculum to strengthen the skills of graduates. Students who wish to excel in strength and conditioning will see the promise of this program.”

Islander graduate student James Morales ’22, ’24 said he has been working toward his lifelong dream of serving as a strength and conditioning coach for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) for more than 15 years. To be considered for that role, he will need a CSCS certification, which he earned after passing the exam this summer.  

“This new accreditation gives the profession more legitimacy,” Morales said. “I’m thrilled to know that people have to be held to a high expectation and standard in order to coach the next LeBron James.”

During his time at the Island University, Morales served as a volunteer strength coach for the Islanders men’s and women’s basketball teams, the baseball and softball teams, the indoor beach volleyball and golf teams, and the cheer and dance squads.

“Our Islander student-athletes put in work, and we have also done our due diligence of helping them as much as we can in order to get to the championship level the past few years,” Morales said.  “Their job is to play the game; our job is to help them play better.”

At the Island University, students seeking a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology can specialize in EC-12 Physical Education Certification, Exercise Science-Strength and Conditioning, or Pre-Allied Health. The Master of Science in Kinesiology program, which offers online and hybrid options, is focused on sport and exercise science; it is designed to prepare professionals for the work in the athletic performance, strength and conditioning, sport coaching, fitness, and allied health disciplines. Altogether, the department’s programs have roughly 500 students.

To learn more about the programs, visit kinesiology.tamucc.edu.