It’s been nearly eight years since Eileen Borski left a financial career behind to answer a higher calling at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe, Texas.
“You go through different phases in life,” she said. “I proved myself in the corporate world. It was interesting work. But as my spiritual life grew, I had more interest in helping people more directly.
“The gift for counseling emerged when I was in corporate America. People were often coming to me for help. I thought, ‘Wow, I guess I am supposed to help them.'”
Amen. Nowadays, Borski is enrolled in the online Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Lamar University and on track to graduate in Summer 2020.
“The program is a good foundation and a great launching point to start doing work and helping people directly,” she said. “It provides the insight of how to increase your knowledge as you get beyond the program.”
Borski wears several hats at the church, where her husband, Jeff, is a deacon. She is currently the director of stewardship and development, and also held roles as the pastoral associate and as parish administrator, so the flexibility of the online format to fit school into her busy schedule was key.
“I don’t think I could have done it without an online option,” she said. “I had to be able to do it at my own pace and on my own time. We certainly had deadlines, but if I could do the work on Monday or Wednesday, it didn’t matter.
“I also liked having the choice of whether or not to attend the online lectures. They record them, so I can watch them later. They’re all very helpful, but if I can do that on Sunday night instead of when they are recording them live, that helps me.”
After Borski graduated from high school, she enrolled at a local community college in her hometown and then one in Houston, but left after a couple of years to get married and start a family.
“I eventually said, ‘I need to go back and finish this,'” she said. “I went back when my kids were toddlers. I graduated summa cum laude in 1998 when I was in my 30s from the University of St. Thomas.”
However, Borski was far from finished with school. She also graduated with a Master of Business Administration from Sam Houston State University in 2002.
After going to work for the church, she earned a certificate in pastoral studies from St. Mary’s Seminary in 2018 before enrolling at Lamar University.
“I am an independent learner, so the online format was a pretty seamless transition for me,” Borski said. “I have been in some sort of university setting pretty much since I was 18 years old. Learning is a hobby for me.”
After researching which master’s degree in counseling programs met her criteria, she found what she was looking for at Lamar University.
“I knew that the program would meet the requirements of the state of Texas,” she said. “I could have gone anywhere, but I like the residency option that Lamar offers to meet your peers. I can also drive to Beaumont in less than two hours. The cost at Lamar is also reasonable.”
In fact, the two residency courses, CNDV 5380a: Seminar (Academic Residency 1) and CNDV 5380b: Seminar (Academic Residency 2) are her favorites in the program, to date.
“From the perspective of wrapping it all together, the residency programs are the most important to me,” she said. “They take the skill classes, the human development and the specific areas of counseling and allow you to use them.
“I also like that the residency on campus allows you to get to know your peers. That was very beneficial. When you’re working through the coursework, you feel like you know those other people and communicate with them. I am a hands-on person. The whole point of it all is to get out there and use it.”
Now that graduation day is rapidly approaching, Borski looks forward to using all of the information she has learned in the next phase of her life and tying her passions together.
“When I say who I am, I am a writer, a teacher and an artist,” she said. “I would love to draw all of those things together and write about how to have a more balanced life.
“I would like to teach and integrate into counseling how to use the creative side to have better mental health and a better life. My own practice will ultimately be the goal. Immediately, I would like to work more with trauma because that’s interesting to me.”
Borski, who also writes children’s stories and enjoys painting and reading, has had a great support system throughout her time in the master’s degree program from her husband and their two grown children.
“They’re excited,” she said. “They support me in whatever I want to do. I am a lifelong learner, so I don’t think it was any surprise to them.”
The information Borski has learned in the M.Ed. program is already paying dividends with her work at the church.
“You know where to go to read different research articles and find different advocacy avenues and professional organizations that are out there for us to be involved in,” she said. “The program did a great job providing a path [to me] as a teacher.
“I had counseling training at seminary, and I was already using counseling skills anyway. Enhancing that through more direct, academic, practical ways to engage with the parishioners to help them achieve their goals was definitely enhanced by the Lamar program.”
No matter where life takes Borski next, she knows the master’s degree will help her meet any challenge she faces.
“It’s a great program that has a good foundation for practical work,” she said. “It’s also doable, but you need to set a plan and work the plan. It’s very independent, which is beautiful and wonderful. But it also comes with that need for self-discipline.
“People will be glad they did it, because it is an effective way to learn online to continue to have the other aspects of your life and do it at your preferred pace. I would definitely recommend the program to people.”
Learn more about the Lamar University online M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program.