Grad looks to star in world beyond the court

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Julia Curran got a late start – but she more than made up for lost time.

Switching to basketball only seven years ago, the Western Mustangs hoops star totaled more than 1,000 points in her five-year university court career, while being named Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Rookie of the Year, an OUA All Star and Academic All-Canadian.

This year, she won both the Joy Bellinger Award and Sylvia Sweeney Award, accolades at the provincial and national levels respectively, recognizing Curran’s excellence on the court, in the classroom, and in her community.

On June 19, Curran will join more than 300,000 Western alumni living around the world as a newly minted graduate and member of the Western Class of 2020. Her senior thesis focused on the nature of stigma surrounding opioid addiction.

“Seeing addiction in the community and in the world strikes an empathetic chord in me,” she said. “There needs to be a better structure around addiction and homelessness. I want to be involved in that and try to make a difference in society.”

She has found opportunities outside of her academic research to get involved with this effort. While living in London, Curran worked with local mental-health organizations True Focus and Motiv8 to research how technology could help addicted populations enhance their neurocognitive abilities.

“In London, there are high rates of homelessness and addiction. I just don’t want to turn a blind eye to that. So, I tried to help that way.”

She has also found ways to contribute to the international community.

Last summer, Curran partnered with Aywa International and Days for Girls to organize a trip to Senegal, where she not only distributed hundreds of reusable feminine hygiene kits to women and girls across the country, but led information sessions on reproductive health and workshops on women’s empowerment through sports.

“In places where women don’t have access to feminine hygiene products, it really affects their lives and being able to attend school. So, you have to look at the root causes of inequality and fix them from the ground up.”

Curran speaks fondly of the month she spent in Senegal. In particular, she enjoyed using her knowledge of the sport she loves to build confidence in the women she met.

“It was a fun experience and cultural exchange to see the global mindset of how basketball impacts women from across the world.”

Coming from a varied athletic background, the basketball community has made the biggest impression on her.

“When I made the switch to basketball, I loved the camaraderie between teammates. The basketball community is supportive and cares about one another. It makes a great environment to foster leadership and confidence.”

While she hopes to stay involved with basketball, Curran is turning her focus to her scholastic ambitions.

Currently, she’s at home studying for the MCAT and applying to positions in the addictions field. Her goal is to attend medical school and use her degree to become an addictions treatment specialist. She hopes to effect change at home, as well as internationally through non-governmental organizations.

“I always want to be contributing to my community, whether on the local or global level.”