Commissioner Candidate Profiles

Mark Merrick, PhD, ATC

The Ohio State University

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You could say that athletic training accreditation and I grew up together. I earned my bachelors degree from the NATA approved program at the University of Toledo before there was formal accreditation of ATEPs. My master’s degree was from Indiana State University, one of the first two approved programs and where I learned from giants like Ken Knight and Bob Behnke. My doctoral graduate assistantship was with an ATEP at the dawn of program accreditation as it moved from NATA approved to CAHEA to CAAHEP and the JRC-AT.

I have been teaching in Athletic Training for 19 years and have been a program director for 15, so I fully empathize with the challenges that programs face every day.  I have lead ATEPs through complete re-structuring more than once as well as taking a program through initial accreditation.  In fact, I did so as a naïve untenured assistant professor when I (probably unwisely) took on the challenge of turning a 60 year old internship into an accredited program at a school with a tremendous amount of history, a gargantuan athletics program, and lofty tenure requirements in the College of Medicine. We succeeded, became accredited, and I survived and earned tenure. With the help of a great clinical coordinator and now several more faculty, the program has thrived and gone on to be very successful and respected.  I’ve been through re-accreditation and put together one of those infamous 1200+ page self-studies. I’ve been part of taking two different programs through a change from quarters to semesters. These experiences allow me to see things from a program centric viewpoint and give me a depth of program understanding that I hope will be a valuable asset as a commissioner.

On the accreditation side, I have been a site-visitor for 10 years, first for the JRC-AT and now the CAATE.  I have served as a visit chair for the past 7 years.  I have gone through site-visitor training three times now, seeing the visit process and the visitor consistency improve each time. I have been part of wonderful visits and some that were less than wonderful.  I have personally seen the diversity of how our programs meet the standards. These opportunities to work with many programs over the years have given me a very open-minded approach to accreditation.  I fully understand and advocate for accreditation being about the outcome and not the process. In addition to my work with the CAATE, I was recently selected to be part of the writing group of the ECE’s Appropriate Entry-Level Degree Task Force.  I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to consider all of the arguments on both sides of this weighty issue.

When I was a Boy Scout many years ago, I was inducted into an Order whose motto was “Cheerful Service” and I’ve subsequently made this part of my personal mission for life. Putting my own interests aside and serving others is among my highest ideals and priorities.  I am an analytical ‘big picture’ thinker who strives to be fair, transparent, open minded and honest.  I am not afraid to say or do what needs to be said or done.  I have long been committed to what is best for the profession over what is best for me personally.  I am a firm advocate for institutional autonomy and despise micromanagement. Although I work at a large university, most of the site visits I’ve done have been at NCAA Division III or NAIA institutions. I have always worked to understand each program to see how it meets the standards in a way that fits its institutional character rather than expecting them to do things the way my program does.

My rationale for candidacy is that I am passionate about the dual-roles of the CAATE in setting the bar for programs via accreditation standards and ensuring program accountability through enforcing those standards. However, I do not always think we are doing it the right way. I was a vocal critic of our approach to accreditation when it was process based.  In my view, much of it amounted to minutiae and micromanagement that sometimes interfered with the quality of student preparation.  However, I am a vocal supporter of the CAATE’s move to an outcomes based approach that largely frees programs to focus on the things that matter. I think that this was the most important achievement of the CAATE to date, but we still have a long way to go and the standards have room for improvement.  I have been a strong public voice at numerous CAATE forums over the years, been CAATE’s representative to many programs during on-site visits, and been a vocal and active participant in Athletic Training leadership at the state, district and national level. I believe that the time has come for me to continue this legacy of service by applying for a leadership and policy role as a CAATE Commissioner.


Bonnie Van Lunen, PhD, ATC

Old Dominion University

other head shot copyThe duties described within the CAATE Commissioner announcement are related to previous tasks that I have been associated with.  The accreditation process is the gateway for athletic training programs and also is an instrumental route which leads students towards the content and experiences that define athletic training.  The CAATE advertises that it is transforming the profession through quality education.  Through my experiences as a site visitor I have been able to witness first-hand the effects of accreditation, and the process reiterates the fact that constant evaluation and assessment are essential in determining action plans for the future.  As a commissioner I believe that one must know all levels of athletic training accreditation in order to define where it is we need to be and go.  Knowing what we know now assists us with planning where we need to make our next steps, and this can only be done by researching information that is available and listening to those that live the life on a daily basis.  The CAATE commissioners should be individuals who can examine the 30,000 foot view of athletic training, and use that information to be visionary.  At the end of the day, we must be confident in the decisions that have been made; therefore the processes used to make these decisions must be clear and well developed.

  • Site Visitor (Chair and Team Member roles) since 1994
  • Conducted professional and post-professional (degree and residency) visits
  • Subject Matter Expert for the 5th Edition of the Competencies (Evidence-Based Practice)
  • Post-Professional Athletic Training Program Director for 14 years
  • Chair of Post-Professional Education Review Committee (2006-2012) (Program Review, Formulated Post-Professional Residency Standards)
  • Member of Post-Professional Education Committee (2010-present)
  • At Large Member for Executive Council on Education in Athletic Training (2010-2013)
  • CAATE Post-Professional Transition Team Leader (2012-present) (Transitioning all Post-Professional processes to the CAATE, Leading Team in Standards Revision for Post-Professional Degree Programs)
  • CAATE Review Team (July 2013 – present)
  • Taught coursework with professional (Canisius College for 3 years) and post-professional programs (UT-Chattanooga for 1 year, ODU for 14 years)
  • Grant reviewer and writer
  • Manuscript reviewer, Editorial Board Member – JAT, ATEJ, JSR
  • Teach spring course to graduate students which encompasses the CAATE  professional standards and the issues within accreditation

The future success of the CAATE depends upon the individuals who work within the walls of the organization, as well as those who institute the processes in real life.  I believe that I can assist the CAATE with discussions surrounding degree level, special certifications, and clinical education requirements within professional programming, and advanced clinical practice requirements within post-professional programming.  Many of these discussions are currently taking place, but some long range planning will be needed.  My leadership roles nationally within the NATA and the CAATE have prepared me for this, and my directorship role at Old Dominion University has certainly provided me with the opportunity to develop programming and understand degree change.  I pride myself in being an attentive listener, while also having the confidence to make decisions that were formulated following careful examination of the issues.  I will also ask the tough questions when needed and continue to pursue the issues that are important to athletic trainers and their students.