Asburian raises high bar with experiences, academics and work

By Joey Nunez, a senior from Harrisonburg, Va.

Sam Stearns checks for fetal heart tones during a patient's prenatal visit.

WILMORE, KY—Asbury students typically complete their education on-site in Wilmore within four years, and as seniors, look back and enjoy their last year. Sam Stearns, a member of the Unashamed Class, will not be on campus this year. “I will miss out on senior year, but I really enjoy being here.”

“Here” for Stearns is at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., her new home for the next two years. Upon graduation, Stearns will receive joint diplomas from Asbury and Vanderbilt in nursing. “The classes are challenging, but I feel prepared. The faculty who teach are experienced and well-versed.” Just as at Asbury, Stearns mentioned that she has received encouragement from Vanderbilt professors desiring to see her succeed.

Before starting her first semester of graduate work, Stearns completed her final Asbury excursion with an eight-week Initiative Grant to the Mercy Maternity Center in Davao City, Philippines. Stearns explained that her work as an intern at this charity center led her to learn about maternal and infant care, as well as to apply her knowledge when she conducted prenatal visits. 

Stearns’ training in the delivery room allowed her to ask questions, gather from resources and talk with experienced midwives and those aspiring to be future midwives. “The more I read and the more I talked, the more it all came together, and that was very exciting,” she said.

Aside from learning, Stearns practiced and maintained such responsibilities as easing soon-to-be mothers through their contractions, monitoring newborn babies’ heart beats

Sam poses with a mother and the first baby she bathed.

and providing care for both mother and child after the delivery. Stearns explained that this opportunity overseas was one she would have never had in the U.S. So, she appreciated learning new styles and approaches to midwifery from an Asian cultural context.

Stearns worried little over the summer as she completed her Initiative Grant. “Everything went smoothly and everything was taken care of,” she said. “I could just serve and not worry about money. I would have never been able to go without it.” In the Philippines, Stearns also felt privileged to represent both herself and Asbury among the native employees, the native patients and the other national and international students in the same program.

Esther Jadhav-Gohil, the Coordinator for Intercultural Programs who supervises the Initiative Grant selected applicants, stated that this experience allowed Stearns to become more “culturally-competent.” “I’m very certain that Sam has been able to gain more skills and different ways of working.”

Sam poses with the first baby she delivered.

Jadhav-Gohil emphasized Stearns’ experience as not only enhancing her work, but also informing her of possible future work. “If she were to work with a family that is international in the U.S., she would have a little more ease while working with them because she’s been in those kinds of settings,” she said.

Stearns did not leave campus in May 2009 without also leaving her impact. In academic work, Dr. Bobby Baldridge, the Department Head of Natural Sciences, taught most of Stearns’ Biology courses. “Sam just always seemed to have the more positive, more hopeful approach to things, and that’s contagious,” he said.

With Stearns now at Vanderbilt, Baldridge likes that when anyone asks, Asbury College was the place where she completed her undergraduate work. “They’re going to think that Asbury is a special place, because Sam’s a special person.” According to Baldridge, Stearns has left Asbury to now enter into a “rather competitive kind of program [that] she was selected for.”

Dr. Malinda Stull, a natural sciences professor who taught Stearns’ Microbiology class, noticed Stearns’ constant questions enhanced her experience in an environment “conducive” to her curiosity. “She absolutely strived for excellence,” Stull said. “Sam did not need to do it for the grade because she did well all to the end, and still was strong as she was at the beginning.”

Stull also mentioned that Stearns pursuing further education at Vanderbilt speaks highly of the education Asbury offers as a foundation. “It will allow other people to entertain Asbury as a possibility, where maybe before, they wouldn’t have.”

Stull likes to see Asburians go and succeed in other places where others notice. “When they see strong students like Sam, and if they haven’t heard about Asbury before, they will have a very good impression,” Stull said. And even with prior knowledge of Asbury, Stull explained that those people will reaffirm that Asburians receive a good foundation and are prepared well.

While Stearns’ presence is missed in the Hamann-Ray Science Building, Dr. Jon Kulaga, the Provost of Asbury College, now knows what he can now expect from student workers, because Stearns has set the bar “pretty high.” “She always did an excellent job, she turned work around incredibly fast and she always thought about her projects,” he said. Stearns worked for Kulaga during the 2007 and 2008 fall semesters and during the 2009 spring semester.

According to Kulaga, Stearns’ big faith, big God and a willingness to go anywhere to do anything, sharing that the Lord will use her in big ways. “Her impact is going to be large, and it’s going to be felt by a lot of people,” he said.

Now away from Asbury, Stearns greatly misses familiar faces, close contact with faculty and administration, Chapel services and all the wonderful people here. But Stearns will always be grateful for her three years at Asbury. “That was an important part of my life: that stage of finalizing my self-image and developing concretely my beliefs and world views,” she said.

Baldridge foresees so much in Stearns’ future. “She’s going to be an extremely successful practitioner of nursing, and that’s one way where her impact will last a long time around here.”

The Asbury Initiative Grant was established in 2003 with a pledge of $1 million from Phyllis McRoberts ’53 West and her husband, Stephen R. West, in honor of the lives and ministries of Dr. Ernest M. Steury, M.D. ’53 and Mrs. Jennie Sue Groce ’54 Steury, who served as Kenyan missionaries with World Gospel Mission. For more information regarding Asbury’s Initiative Grant program, visit:

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