Respiratory student receives Pearson Prize, credits department

Brenda Barger-Saunders is a second-year respiratory therapy student at Missouri Southern.

At first glance, she’s just another non-traditional student. But in reality, she is a woman anybody could look up to.

This fall, Bargar-Saunders will receive the first installment of her Pearson Prize for High Education. The Pearson Prize is a $10,000 grant given to students who have completed at least one year of college, demonstrate leadership in community service and have attended a two or four-year school.

More than 10,000 students applied for the award, and only 70 of those applicants were selected to receive the grant. It’s considered an honor for Barger-Saunders and Southern.

“The Pearson Prize is a true blessing for me and my family. I am very honored to be chosen for this honor,” Barger-Saunders said.

Dr. Tia Strait, dean of the school of technology, said, “We feel this reflects very positively on her work as a student and the quality of education offered at Missouri Southern State University.”

Barger-Saunders said she could not agree more. Instead of crediting her own work for the prize, she credited her department.

“The respiratory therapy program here is excellent,” she said. She added that the program offered at Southern is a consortium with Franklin Technology Center and has very high standards. When students complete the program, they will be faced with “life and death” situations and must be able to respond properly and save their patients, she said. However, she also said that, “Nobody could go through this program and not know what they’re doing.”

And the achievements of this program certainly reflect that statement.

Glenda Pippin, director of the Respiratory Therapy Education Consortium, highlighted some of the department’s honors. Each year, a group of students are sent to compete in the Sputum Bowl, a competition that allows different schools to compete for top honors in the field of respiratory therapy. Pippin could not recall offhand how many times Southern had placed, but she said they won on at least 11 different occasions.

Also, the program highly recommends service learning. Each year the students participate in the Hospice Walk and are given the opportunity to do a clinical rotation with the community. Further, they are currently experimenting with a pilot tutoring program in collaboration with the learning center and Project STAY. Pippin stated that it was a great opportunity since the school normally only offers tutoring for core courses.

She largely credits Barger-Saunders for the opportunity to try the tutoring program, and Barger-Saunders is currently their only tutor. Barger-Saunders will graduate in July 2011, and hopes to transfer her learning into doing by working in a children’s hospital doing critical care. She spoke highly of the children’s hospital in Little Rock, Ark., but has not made up her mind.