Opus Prize Student Perspective

The summer 2014 edition of the Gonzaga Giving newsletter featured a sampling of our conversation with some of the students involved with the Opus Prize, the faith-based humanitarian entrepreneurship award that will be presented to a selected recipient on October 16, 2014. Here, you can read more of what these students had to say.

What has your involvement with the Opus Prize proceedings meant to you, and how do you see it having an impact on your future?

“I am so blessed with the opportunity to be involved with the Opus Prize. I am actually one of two students who get to be on the Opus Steering Committee, so I have been intimately involved since the spring of 2013. It has been an amazing experience. Learning about the three finalists and seeing the impact and work they have done in their communities is so inspiring. The type of work they are doing is what I want to be able to do in the Spokane Community. I know that through my education here at Gonzaga and by meeting with these individuals, I will have a desire instilled to become an agent of change and a woman for others.” – Francisca Chau (’17), pictured above left.

“Opus has been a huge part of my Gonzaga experience thus far. As I advanced through the selection process, I decided to do more research into what exactly social entrepreneurship was. I began brainstorming how Gonzaga could parlay the momentum for social change created by our involvement in the Opus Prize into long-term programs and initiatives to foster social impact on campus.” – Aaron Danowski (’18), pictured above center.

“Until learning about the Opus Prize, I had yet to find an organization whose views about social justice, the global community and faith aligned so perfectly with mine. My involvement has been a dream come true and has shown me ways that I could turn my passion for the stories of others into a career.” – Allison Crha (’17), pictured above right.

What inspired you to become involved with the Opus Prize?

“I received an email from Dr. Mike Herzog about a unique opportunity. When he told me how Opus was being hosted in the fall of 2014 at Gonzaga, I was just amazed that I had been invited to help! I researched what Opus was, what it stood for and what it meant to be involved – it was mind-blowing and everything I wanted to do in my future. I also knew that having a student voice on the committee was important for the process and I was more than happy to step up. When the opportunity arose to apply to go on one of the vetting trips, I did not hesitate. I knew I wanted to do this and that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” – Francisca Chau

“During the first few weeks of school I met with Julie McCulloh, the dean of admission. She was the first one to draw my attention to Opus and it immediately appealed to me. I have had several opportunities to travel abroad and immerse myself in foreign cultures, I attended Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore. and I feel a deep commitment to social justice, so I was very interested in seeing $1.2 million go to recognizing and supporting heroes fighting against social inequality.” – Aaron Danowski

“I had recently returned from a summer in Zambezi, Zambia, which ignited my fire for global social justice. When I saw the mission statement of Opus, I knew I had to be involved in some way.” – Allison Crha

What has your Opus experience taught you about yourself?

“This experience has taught me where my passion lies. The mission of Opus is to recognize unsung heroes who, by their faith and entrepreneurial spirit, are conquering the world’s most persistent social problems. I want to change our world and feel that by learning about these individuals, I can obtain the tools necessary to do that in the Spokane community. I know that on my trip I will learn to think critically and share my experience with everyone, so others can see the amazing things people are doing in the world.” – Francisca Chau

“This process helped me learn about what I want to study and where I want to go after graduation. Until shortly before I started school, I was planning on majoring in engineering. I switched to business but I did not have a good idea of where I wanted to go. As I became more involved with Opus, I learned that I want to use my talents to engage in a career involving giving back and helping people. At the moment, I am aiming to one day work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or the Bridgespan Group, which is a management consulting firm specifically for non-profits and other social sector companies. I was lucky enough to be invited to join the Hogan program after recognizing my interest in social entrepreneurship over winter break and I am excited to begin that curriculum next fall. I will also continue exploring social entrepreneurship through a French-immersion study abroad opportunity in Cameroon, a summer internship and graduate programs.” – Aaron Danowski

“I have seen myself grow so much through the process and beginning stages of our involvement. During the application process we had to give different speeches relating to how we felt about different issues. It taught me so much about what my values are and why they are that way. It has made me a more confident speaker and taught me that even though I am young, I have wisdom from my own experiences.” – Allison Crha

In your opinion, what impact do you see Opus having on Gonzaga and the Spokane community?

“This is an amazing opportunity for Gonzaga and the Spokane community, not only through the inspiration the finalists provide, but also in what is yet to come. Students will be able to look back one day and say that this was an amazing opportunity and that they were inspired by having the Opus Prize hosted at Gonzaga when they were attending the University. I also see this promoting activism among our community, inspiring collaboration in addressing social problems that occur in Spokane. There is so much potential to make Spokane a great city and I think through Opus, people will be inspired to take action!” – Francisca Chau

“Opus is a phenomenal opportunity to engage the Gonzaga community and the greater Spokane area in a discussion about how to address issues of social justice and inequality in our area and beyond. In speaking with other Gonzaga students, many of them have a strong desire to make a difference both while they are in school and after they graduate, but they are often unsure how to do so, considering their major. Opus is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students, faculty and people from the Spokane community to meet several of the most inspiring change-makers on the planet and I’m looking forward to spending my remaining three years here helping to further the impact of the prize on campus!” – Aaron Danowski

“The partnership between Opus and Gonzaga could not have come at a more perfect time for both. Gonzaga is forming a strong reputation for its emphasis on social justice and meeting the needs of the global community. Having Opus come to campus during this time will only allow Gonzaga to grow even more and experience global service on a whole new level.” – Allison Crha