The day Owen Michener received his acceptance letter to the Robert and Patricia Gussin Spiritan Division of Academic Programs, he wasn’t thrilled.

His older brother was already in the GSD, and he knew it meant giving up part of his summer. All first year GSD students participate in the Summer Bridges program, living on campus for a few weeks and preparing for life as a college student. 

But it didn’t take long for him to understand that what seemed like a sacrifice was actually the opposite. By the end of the summer he could already appreciate his study skills, time management, and comfort levels socializing vastly improving. 

“The Division allowed me to meet a large group of people and gain a bunch of new friends,” Owen said. “I even met my present girlfriend in the Division, and she is probably the best thing that has happened to me.”

His first year, Owen became president of his residence hall, began making the dean’s list, and did this while holding down a part-time job as a line cook at Lola’s Eatery, a popular fusion restaurant in Pittsburgh’s Garfield Community.

“I believe that attending Duquesne and joining the GSD is the best decision I’ve made in my life," Owen said.

By the time he was a sophomore, Owen was more than thriving. 

After his one year as a GSD student, Owen joined the Honors College, majoring in computer science and cybersecurity studies and minoring in mathematics. Still on the dean’s list, he volunteered at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. 

In recognition of all he has achieved, Owen, along with student John Sparber, was named a Spiritan Division Student of the Year in 2023, the criteria of which includes academic excellence, participation in GSD services, campus leadership, as well as comprehensive applications and compelling interviews with the selection committee.

“Owen and John were chosen because they stood out among the other candidates as far as what it means to them being a Division student, how the Division has helped them, and how they will represent the Division working with new incoming freshmen,” said Vicki Bush, assistant director of counseling services, academic advisor/student success coach, and coordinator for Project for Academic Coaching through Tutoring (PACT). 

“I went from being someone that was basically failing out of high school, someone that my teachers didn't care about because they probably thought I was going nowhere and there was nothing they could do about it, to someone that got constant attention and help from professors,” Owen said.

“There was one moment in particular that changed me the most, and it was when a professor walked into the classroom and started to talk to me about how good my paper was. That completely changed my perspective–I could have more potential than I thought.”

Owen’s plans for the future include staying on the dean’s list. He hopes to work as a software engineer upon graduation. 

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May 17, 2023