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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Gonzaga involves students and community
in events to foster social entrepreneurship

Gonzaga faculty have organized lectures and panels leading up to and after the Oct. 13 to 17 Opus Week activities and the Thursday, Oct. 16, Opus Awards Ceremony at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox. 

The Opus Prize is an annual, $1 million gift awarded to an individual or organization whose faith-based, entrepreneurial leadership helps people in need transform their lives.

It identifies unsung social innovators and highlights their approaches to giving power to disenfranchised people.  The process of selection seeks to inspire others to pursue lives of service.

Michael Herzog, chair of Gonzaga’s Opus Prize Steering Committee, said that the finalists “are among the most courageous in the world. They are undaunted by tough, seemingly intractable social problems. They embody the power of faith committed to justice.”

The Opus Nights are to help students and the public gain from the Opus Prize experience.  They are at 6 p.m., Tuesdays, Sept. 9 to Nov. 4, in the Wolff Auditorium at Jepson Center. 

The events are: Sept. 9, “Faith-Based Work: The Work That Does Justice”; Sept. 16, “Bridging Societies: Intercultural Competence and Authentic Empathy”; Sept. 23, “Faith, Reciprocity, and Aid on the Columbia Plateau: Awareness of Social Needs in Our Own Backyard”; Sept. 30, “Community ‘Development’ and Empowered Communities”; Oct. 7, “Social Entrepreneurship:  What Is It?  What Does It Mean?”

Spokane area ecumenical leaders will participate in an Interfaith Service, at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 15, at the Gonzaga University Chapel in College Hall to celebrate faith and humanitarian efforts worldwide.

The Oct. 28 session is on “What Is a Concerned Zag to Do?  Lessons Learned and Potential Work around the Faith That Does Justice” and Nov. 4 is a “Wrap-up: What’s Next for Gonzaga and Opus?  What’s Next for YOU?”

The Opus Prize and process further the efforts of the recipient, while inspiring college students to serve.  A 15-month process to seek, nominate and review candidates has involved GU students.

The Opus Prize Foundation is a private, independent nonprofit foundation, established in 1994 by the founding chair of the Opus Corporation, a family of commercial real estate development, construction, architecture and structural engineering companies headquarters in Minneapolis.

Since 2004, the foundation has selected universities as partners to organize the Opus Prize selection process and award ceremony to challenge students to think globally and live lives of service.

Joe Poss, vice president of university advancement, said hosting the award engages these students and faculty, who share their experiences.

“The Opus Prize Foundation, which partners with Catholic universities, invited Gonzaga to participate because of our identity with Jesuit values and social justice, and because of our growing global engagement,” he said. 

“We seek to create on campus and around the world opportunities for students, regardless of their majors, to experience other cultures by having them go abroad and having students from around the world on campus,” Joe added.

Events around the Opus Prize provide students opportunities to walk with, listen to and worship with the humanitarian leaders.

“It’s an extraordinary teaching moment for students to be inspired to do similar work,” Joe said.  “We hope students will learn how finalists built their organizations, challenges they took on, their models for addressing problems, and their faith-based entrepreneurship, leadership and tenacity.”

“The $1 million first prize award is monumental for any of the organizations.  The two $100,000 awards to the other finalists is also significant,” Joe said, “taking them from struggle to cement and validate their work for sustainability.”    

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