Caitlin Ward ’22

"I can’t hold back that I absolutely love performing and allowing other people to enjoy the performance. I’m excited to now have an Irish Dance Ensemble at Iona that I can share with the Gael community!"

Student Success

Major: Speech Language Pathology
Graduating Year: 2022
Hometown: Staten Island
High School: Notre Dame Academy

Caitlin Ward ’22 has been making a name for herself in the world of Irish dance for the past 18 years. Ranked as a Top 10 National Dancer, her accomplishments include competing at Worlds for seven years, finishing 13th in the international competition. A three-time Oireachtas Regional Champion, she has also toured with Cherish the Ladies, one of the top Celtic groups in the country, and danced alongside The Chieftains. Gaels can look forward to seeing her perform live with Iona’s new Irish Dance Ensemble this fall.

“I can’t hold back that I absolutely love performing and allowing other people to enjoy the performance. I’m excited to now have an Irish Dance Ensemble at Iona that I can share with the Gael community!”

Why did you choose Iona?

I’ve been asked this question so many times over the years between freshman orientation and people I’ve met along the years. To be completely honest, I didn’t want to go to Iona. My older brother went to Iona and we shared one year there together. We came from a pretty small town and I was always known as “Ward’s little sister,” and knowing Iona was small I didn’t want to be that person. However, when I visited him my senior year of high school, I absolutely loved the campus and community Iona offered. I knew I would be able to be my own person here.

Why did you choose your major?

I chose my major after working in public schools on Staten Island. I worked my way up to becoming an after-school teacher where it was myself and the students. I had this one student who wasn’t verbal and very shy. When it was me and him, one on one, that’s where he would try to communicate with me. At the time I fell in love with teaching and being that person for the one student. It wasn’t until I talked to his counselors that I realized it was Speech Pathology that I had a love for.

What impact has Irish dance had on your life?

My years in Irish dancing deserve nothing but credit in shaping me as the woman I am today. Although I’ve worked hard to deserve the awards that I won, there’s so much more to it than the competition, dresses and makeup. Irish dance gave me discipline and taught me how to be humble. It also has taught me that friendships are so valuable. I credit Irish dance for all of those things, but I also owe the credit to my teacher, Donny Golden. He has taught me to love the sport and not the awards. He’s shown tough love in the best way you could ask for. I carry that around with me in my everyday life and challenges.

Tell us something you’ve learned about yourself since coming to Iona.

I’ve learned a lot about myself since coming to Iona. I learned that people come and go in your life all the time. Considering I’m a senior now, I’ve met so many amazing people in my four years. The most important thing I’ve learned is to be your true self. Opening that door to people seems like the hardest thing, but it’s always so worth it.

Honestly, Iona’s community is made up of the most diverse and amazing people. From the professors to the advisors and to my friends; I owe it all to them. I just said how the one thing I learned from Iona was being true to myself and a huge impact that helped with that was my English classes. In every English class I’ve taken, the conversations were so open and no one judged. I just loved the fact that even though I was in a classroom with a group of people who weren’t always necessarily in my close circle, we all spoke freely. That’s what Iona’s about.

Any advice to prospective students?

The first set of advice I can give is to be yourself. College can be a scary thought for incoming students, however Iona is a welcoming community to every individual. There’s a place for everyone!

My second set of advice is to be open to the person you become in college. You’ll meet people who change the way you think, feel, and act.