NWU Professor Honored as a Social Worker of the Year

Lisa Borchardt beams whenever she gets a phone call from a service agency asking for a Wesleyan student volunteer.

“That speaks highly of the quality and excellence of our students,” said Borchardt.

It also says something about Borchardt who was recently named the “Nebraska Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers Southeastern Region Social Worker of the Year.”

The annual award recognizes a person who makes major contributions to human services, superior contributions to the public knowledge of social work, social issues, and programs, and demonstrates exceptional leadership qualities.

“Lisa Borchardt is an example of a social worker putting her professional values to work in the community, in the classroom, and in making sure that field placements are successful,” says her nominator.

Borchardt — who is now program director for Wesleyan’s Social Work Program — was recognized for her previous role as field director for the Social Work Program. As field director, she was responsible for helping students find practicum experience at area service agencies. She credits her 17 years of experience working as a counselor, case manager, women’s advocate, training coordinator and field director at numerous Lincoln agencies for keeping her connected to the community and opening up opportunities for her students.

Borchardt came to Nebraska Wesleyan when its Social Work Program began expanding. Prior to 2002, social work students completed the classroom work at Wesleyan and Union College while the fieldwork was coordinated exclusively through Union College.

“I think word started to spread about social work,” Borchardt said as to why enrollment in Wesleyan’s Social Work Program increased. “The degree is so broad that it allows you the opportunity to get one degree but go a hundred different directions.”

In the classroom, the associate professor of social work teaches introductory, group and micro social work classes in both the undergraduate and Advantage programs and is responsible for helping students meet their 480 hours of required practicum experience.

A NWU alum, Borchardt has spent most of her time working on child welfare and domestic violence issues. She serves on the Nebraska State Foster Care Review Board, the Tri-Mentoring Advisory Board and volunteers with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

And as she reminds of her students about the variety of opportunities in the social work field, Borchardt is taking her own advice and answering a new call.

Next fall she will take a sabbatical leave to gain additional training at the Center For Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado, and explore her interest in grief counseling. She will also spend her sabbatical writing a general education course about grief and loss, and hopes to start a triage team at NWU.

Borchardt said she first became interested in the topic following a fraternity fire at Nebraska Wesleyan.

“Students were coming to me because they heard I was a good listener,” she said. “Many of these students hadn’t experienced death nor did they know how to process through their grief. “It was then that I realized we had a need that was not being met.”

Borchardt soon developed a liberal arts seminar for first-year students called “Celebrating Life and Preparing for Loss.” Her experience teaching this course for two years opened her eyes to the difficult issues students face.

“I’m refocusing my interest,” said Borchardt. “This feels like a calling."