UOW’s most prestigious student honour awarded at April graduations
Chancellor Robert Hope Memorial Prize winner: Thomas Curran.
This year’s University of Wollongong (UOW) Chancellor Robert Hope Memorial Prize recipient is Thomas Curran, who studied Bachelor of Arts (Dean's Scholar), Bachelor of International Studies (Dean's Scholar).
The award is in celebration of the life and contribution of the University's founding Chancellor, Chancellor Robert Hope.
It is awarded to a student who demonstrates exceptional academic performance, outstanding leadership and significant contribution to the University and/or the wider community.
As the only prize awarded by the University Council, it is considered UOW’s most prestigious prize. Recipients receive the Chancellor Robert Hope Medal and $7000.
The University also donates $3000 to one or more community or charitable organisations selected by the recipient.
Thomas’ long list of outstanding academic results, combined with the leadership, initiative and engagement he has shown in his community pursuits made him a worthy recipient of the Chancellor Robert Hope Memorial Prize.
He was involved in the UOW Language Ambassadors program, which involved placing UOW language students into local high schools to help secondary students studying those same languages.
The program expanded from a single language at one school, to five languages at six schools across the Illawarra.
He was invited to present the program model for cooperation between secondary and tertiary institutions at the annual Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities.
Thomas also volunteered his time to the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, program that provides mentoring to Indigenous high school students.
He was involved in expanding it to an online trial to reach remote communities in the Northern Territory.
He also represented the university internationally including the Council of Europe, the European Parliament in Strasbourg and the Asia-Pacific Model United Nations Conference where he dealt with issues related to nuclear fuels and space exploration.
Thomas said his most outstanding ambassadorial experience was his internship with the Uni-Capital Internship Program in Washington DC.
There he met the US Consul General and members of Congress and worked with the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on legislative projects, preparing recommendations for the US Secretary of the Department of Transportation and his staff.
He said his most outstanding ambassadorial experience for UOW was his internship in Washington DC.
One of the highlights of the internship, and indeed his life, was being present for an address by former President Barrack Obama.
“I managed to get a place right up the front, at the table next to Morgan Freeman, and when the President and the First Lady walked I was a bit star struck," he said.
“President Obama gave a brilliant speech, and then Andrea Bocelli came and sang the hymns, which was incredible."
Thomas was also fortunate to receive a highly sought-after student placement at SciencesPo Strasbourg, the Institute of Political Studies of Strasbourg, a school that has produced many high-profile French politicians and public servants.
He represented UOW at the Asia-Pacific Model United Nations in Perth in 2015, sitting on the Special Political and Decolonisation Committee, representing Greece.
“We discussed two main issues over the course of five days - procedures for the safe disposal of nuclear waste, and measures to deal with the accumulation of space junk in orbit around Earth,” he said.
Thomas said the most rewarding UOW experience was his involvement in the Language Ambassadors Program.
“I’m also pleased that we were able to raise the profile of UOW’s languages program, because I think it has tremendous value but is sometimes overlooked," he said.
“The Language Ambassadors program was also hugely rewarding for me as it helped me become more engaged with the local community, and I got to meet some great kids and brilliant teachers at Smith’s Hill High School. "
Thomas said he moved to Canberra earlier this year to take up a job as a graduate with the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.
He is currently studying for a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration at the University of Canberra as part of the requirement of the Infrastructure graduate program.
“I’d also like to start on a Masters degree at some point in the near future, while I’ve still got the enthusiasm to complete further study.”