Feb. 29, 2024 – Most knew Victoria Burns as an ace student securing straight A’s at one of the country’s most prestigious universities. But underneath the McGill student’s intellectual sharpness was a part of her she kept closely guarded. There were times she did seek help, but whenever she shared about her alcohol addiction, she said she was turned away.

She wished students like her had more support. In the end, it was a fellow graduate student who sparked her desire to recover from alcoholism. That was more than a decade ago.

On Wednesday, the University of Calgary officially announced an addiction recovery centre for its staff and students, an initiative unheard of at any other academic institution in Canada and one spearheaded by Burns, now an associate professor at the university’s Faculty of Social Work.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Burns, an addictions researcher. “I have to pinch myself sometimes.”

The centre is run by UCalgary Recovery Community (UCRC), a group founded by Burns soon after she joined the university in 2017.

The group regularly held educational programs on substance use and recovery for the university’s students and faculty members. In 2021, it received a grant of $32,000 from the City of Calgary, allowing Burns to expand the reach of UCRC’s programs.