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Departments: ACSM Certified Professional of the Year 2021

ACSM Names Inaugural Certified Professional of the Year

ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: 5/6 2021 - Volume 25 - Issue 3 - p 3-5
doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000671
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Kristin Traskie, MPH, ACSM-CPT, EIM-I, has been named ACSM’s inaugural Certified Professional of the Year for 2021. ACSM’s Committee for Certification and Registry Boards and ACSM’s Health & Fitness Summit Program Committee developed the Certified Professional of the Year award to recognize an outstanding ACSM certified professional for their dedication and exceptional contributions toward enhancing the health and wellness of individuals in their community.

Kristin is the fitness and wellness coordinator in the Health Promotion Department at Michigan State University. She leads the SPARTANfit Fitness and Wellness Program, the Exercise is Medicine® on Campus (EIM-OC) Initiative, and serves as colead of the University Well-Being Coalition.

On a mission to create a culture of health and well-being on campus and beyond, Kristin is focused on improving life satisfaction and health outcomes through the creation of holistic wellness and movement opportunities for all. She is ACSM Personal Trainer® (ACSM-CPT) certified and holds an Exercise is Medicine® Level 1 credential along with certifications from several other organizations. Kristin has been most recently honored with the American College Health Association’s Best Practice in College Health for Health Promotion award for her innovative and collaborative work on EIM-OC. In addition, she currently serves as the Michigan Intramural Sports Association’s state director. She holds a Master of Public Health degree from Old Dominion University and currently resides in St. Johns, Michigan.

“Kristin represents the best of what ACSM certified professionals have to offer. She’s a passionate advocate for the roles that physical activity and wellness play in individual’s lives but also strives to use her platform to foster a culture of health and well-being for her campus and the surrounding community,” said Christie Ward-Ritacco, Ph.D., ACSM-EP, EIM-II, chair of the ACSMs Certification Board.


I plan to use this recognition to be an ambassador for ACSM and the community I serve by working to develop and support the next generation of physical activity and exercise professionals by spreading the mission of ACSM. I will educate students and young professionals about ACSM and help to expand the reach of offerings, certifications, research, initiatives, events, and resources. I also plan to educate students on the benefits of becoming a member such as networking, leadership experience and opportunities, mentorship, as well as developing critical skills such as communication, enthusiasm/attitude, teamwork, critical thinking/problem-solving, and professionalism. I will leverage my relationships and interprofessional network by informing other student-facing professionals and departments such as advisors, teaching assistants, and career advisors, on the value students could gain from membership and certification. Furthermore, I can make authentic connections by sharing first-hand knowledge about my positive experience with ACSM. Success strategies developed from these actions could then be used to create a university toolkit for other institutions.

I envision an ACSM ambassador to be enthusiastic about physical activity, health, and well-being and someone who thinks beyond themselves, believes in the strength of community, and seeks to foster a healthy culture within the environment around them. I feel I embody these characteristics and would maximize the utilization of these character strengths to be a catalyst for making movement a part of daily campus and community culture. I will remain committed to promoting inclusive health, wellness, and physical activity and continue to provide innovative, evidence-based tools necessary to strengthen physical activity habits that can last a lifetime.


My certifications have aided me in gaining the respect of my clients, colleagues, and administrators and have provided me the credibility to be recognized as a leader in the exercise, health, and wellness field. My certification achievements have established a level of knowledge backed by research and science, which has elevated my opportunities for career advancement and uniquely qualified me to work with all types of individuals, communities, and environments. In addition, my certifications have given me the confidence and ability to lead and support across all levels of the social–ecological model, from the individual through the policy/enabling environment. Whether I am personalizing an exercise program to help an individual achieve their fitness and well-being goals, leading our campus in a community health initiative, or advocating for built environment interventions to increase physical activity, I am confident in my ability, knowledge, and competence to be successful and impactful.

Although ACSM is well-known and vastly recognized for leading the way as the gold standard in certification, I believe ACSM leads the way in lifelong value, helping certified professionals not only accomplish their professional goals but grow as individuals through limitless professional opportunities. ACSM has connected me with an embracing alliance of passionate advocates committed to helping individuals live longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.

ACSM leads the way in lifelong value, helping certified professionals not only accomplish their professional goals but grow as individuals through limitless professional opportunities.


I believe professional growth and personal development is an ongoing act of assessing your life goals and values and building your skills and qualities to reach your potential. I pursue professional and personal development through continuous education, certification achievements, and staying current with best practices and evidence- and research-based practices through engagement in a variety of webinars, attending and presenting at conferences and workshops, as well as involvement in professional organizations like ACSM. I strongly believe in investing my time and providing service back to others and organizations that have helped to build my skills and abilities.


This year’s applicants were narrowed down to three finalists before Kristin was named the winner during ACSM’s International Health & Fitness Summit. The other two finalists for 2021 are the following:

Alexis Batrakoulis, M.S., ACSM-EP, ACSM-CPT, has been involved in the health and fitness industry for the past 26 years. He currently works as a freelance personal trainer, exercise physiologist, educator, subject matter expert, author, and speaker presenting in 40 countries across five continents and is based in Greece. He holds numerous industry certifications through ACSM, NSCA, ACE, and NASM as well as a B.S. in physical education and sports science and an M.S. in exercise and health, and he is preparing to earn a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and biochemistry from the University of Thessaly. He has authored or coauthored more than 35 international peer-reviewed publications, including scientific articles, abstracts, and book chapters in exercise science. He is the founder of the International Obesity Exercise Training Institute and has been a member and deputy director of the Professional Standards Committee of EuropeActive.

David Geslak, B.S., ACSM-EP, used his ACSM certification to pioneer autism exercise programs, including a research-supported and award-winning app, Exercise Buddy. His journey started with teaching his first client with autism to skip in four sessions. His life and career path were changed forever. To further his understanding of autism, he became a paraeducator and eventually the fitness coordinator at a school for children with autism. David writes autism exercise research articles and gives insightful presentations around the world. He also collaborates with researchers in disability and exercise and has lectured at numerous universities. He is the founder of Exercise Connection and has partnered with ACSM to create the Autism Exercise Specialist Certificate. He graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Health Promotion.

“ACSM Certified Professionals are talented and dedicated individuals who are making exceptional contributions to the health and wellness of individuals in their community and this year’s exceptional pool of applicants provided confirmation of this fact. The passion, dedication, and professional excellence demonstrated by these ACSM professionals is so impressive and we are excited to highlight our finalists and inaugural recipient of the ACSM Certified Professional of the Year award,” said Christie.

Applicants for ACSM’s Certified Professional of the Year must hold a current ACSM certification and work at least 20 hours per week as an exercise professional. The winner receives a complimentary registration to ACSM’s International Health & Fitness Summit, a complimentary 1-year ACSM Alliance membership, an opportunity to serve as an ACSM media spokesperson, and more. To learn more about ACSM’s Certified Professional of the Year, visit

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