Annika Ziels '24

“I have never been more confident, happy or proud of myself, and I really owe it all to Iona and the relationships I have formed here.”

Majors: Arts Leadership and Public Relations
Minor: Writing
Hometown: Portland, OR
High School: Central Catholic High School

Why did you choose Iona?
In looking for a college, it was always my dream to move near NYC. When touring schools on the East Coast, I fell in love with Iona because it seemed to have the best of both worlds: it was a quick train ride away from the city while still having that college campus feel. I wanted a small Catholic school where I could get involved and have a community on campus, and that is exactly what Iona has provided for me. In moving across the country, I wanted to make sure I felt welcome wherever I ended up; today I can truly say that Iona is my home away from home.

Why did you choose your major?
When looking at Iona, I loved that it offered the unique major of Arts Leadership. I knew in high school that I wanted to go into the business side of the theater industry and the Arts Leadership major just seemed so fitting. By combining it with the Public Relations major, I hope to have all the skills necessary to work at a talent agency in the city one day. It is my ultimate dream to be a talent agent for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities which combines my loves for advocacy, theater and PR. Iona has truly provided me with the opportunity to nurture all my aspirations and interests.

What have you accomplished so far that you are most proud of?
My proudest accomplishment thus far at Iona is having the privilege to serve as a student Campus Minister. I stepped into the role at the beginning of this year and am so excited to continue with it my junior year. Through being a Campus Minister, I have come to understand what it means to stand in solidarity with those who are not provided with the same opportunities as I, and my job as a citizen of the world is to walk with those who are hurting and in need. I am so proud to be a Campus Minister; it has opened my eyes and heart to so many relationships and experiences on campus and in the community.

Tell us something you learned (in or out of the classroom) that really surprised or excited you?
As a student in the Honors Program here at Iona, it is required to take an Honors Humanities course every semester through your sophomore year. I have always had a deep love and appreciation for literature, and these courses have given me the opportunity to really explore this aspect of my education. We learn about different philosophies, writing styles, and world views that have expanded my understanding as a student. The course has challenged my ideas of truth and opened the door for me to ask questions that have shaped my values and ideals. I cannot believe I am currently taking my last seminar class!

Tell us something you’ve learned about yourself since coming to Iona.
Something I have learned about myself since coming to Iona is how capable I am. As someone who was always a homebody growing up, I truly did not know if I would be able to move across the country and maintain a life that I was happy with. The past two years have taught me that I am so much stronger than I ever thought I could be. I am not going to lie, sometimes life gets really hard and all I want to do is go home for the weekend to get away, but for me, that’s not an option. However, especially this past year, I realize that I have never been more confident, happy or proud of myself, and I really owe it all to Iona and the relationships I have formed here. I am living, thriving, making mistakes and learning each day, and I’m very excited to see what the next two years hold in store.

Do you belong to clubs/teams? Or do you participate in other activities? Tell us about your experiences with Mission and Ministry, especially as a team leader.
As I mentioned before, I am a student Campus Minister here at Iona and therefore I am heavily involved in the Office of Mission and Ministry not only as a minister, but as a student worker, too. Furthermore, I have also worked in College Marketing and Communications at Iona since my freshman year which has been one of the most incredible learning experiences. I am accumulating skills that I know will help me beyond graduation and I am so thankful to both offices for giving me the opportunity to work so closely with them. In addition to my jobs, I am a sister of Gamma Lambda Rho sorority, an active student in the Honors Program where I act as editor for our essay column, a part of Iona Best Buddies, the Iona Players PR chair, and am stage managing for the Iona College Theater Ensemble. I love how there are so many opportunities for me to get involved!

Have you participated in any internships or have you had any research opportunities? Tell us about that. What did you learn and how will it help you?
As previously mentioned, I work in College Marketing and Communications, and I adore my work here. The people who work in the department have all granted me with so much knowledge specific to their fields, which are the same fields that I will be pursuing in the near future. My boss, Lea Carpanzano, is the social & digital media manager here at the school and has been the most incredible mentor to me. I work closely with her on all aspects of the College’s social media, but most specifically Instagram. I am learning video editing skills, Photoshop, photography, film work, digital analytics and much more. I am so thankful for how the people who work in this office, and honestly all professors and faculty at Iona, want me and other students to succeed and do all they can to make sure that happens.

Has any class, professor, mentor or friend made an important impact on you since coming to Iona? How?
Two people have made quite the impact on me since coming to Iona. Katie Feeney ‘22 and Maeve Wydan ‘22 are not only two of my fellow Campus Ministers, but also mentors, role models, and, of course, best friends. One of the main reasons why I so strongly aspired to be a Campus Minister and student leader was because of these strong, wise, kind-hearted women who have set the perfect example for me. Both Maeve and Katie have shown me what it means to lead with humility, respect, confidence and selflessness. I am confident in saying they are the two most involved women on campus and yet, they always make time to care for others and to be a friend. They are the main reason why Iona truly feels like a home away from home to me.

What are you looking forward to in the future?
I am looking forward to simply living out the other half of my college experience. During the pandemic, I came to the realization that I only have these four years of my life once and I truly must take advantage of each and every moment. I am living and learning each day while navigating this amazing life I get to live in New York. I am thrilled for each new experience, leadership opportunity, service project, job and relationship I have had at Iona, and look forward to those on the horizon I’ve yet to encounter. I am just so thankful to be here!

Any advice to prospective students?
Say yes to everything! Wherever you end up, although I hope it is Iona, say yes to every opportunity and activity. Saying yes opens doors to things that are surprising, exciting and intended just for you. You never know what saying yes might lead to. College may be scary at first, but you are so capable, and Iona is ready to welcome you with open arms!