Carlie Brainard ‘21

"With the support of my Iona family, I've grown into a capable and confident woman. I now feel genuinely prepared for whatever big opportunity comes next because of the newfound confidence Iona helped me find within myself."

Majors: English and Media & Strategic Communications with a concentration in Public Relations
Minor: Writing
Hometown: Abington, MA
High School: Cardinal Spellman, Brockton, MA

Why did you choose Iona?
Iona reminded me of all the things I loved about my high school: a small Catholic school rich in service and tradition. I'm looking to pursue a career in the publishing industry, so I knew I wanted to be near NYC and all the opportunities it has to offer.

What have you accomplished so far that you are most proud of?
Other than acing calculus, I'm most proud of the different works of service I've led while at Iona. Through my work as a Campus Minister, I've led two service projects to Wartburg Nursing Home and Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, attempted to lead a mission trip to Zambia, Africa (until the pandemic hit), hosted various service-oriented programs, and worked as my sorority’s philanthropic chair.

Tell us about something you learned (in or out of the classroom) that really surprised or excited you.
My sophomore year, I took an English course centered around Jane Austen. Even though I'm a total English nerd, I had attempted to read Austen in the past but found the lack of action in the plot boring and the cultural aspects outdated. Through this course though, I learned to appreciate Austen's unique writing style and character development. Jane Austen is now one of my favorite authors! That course really taught me to appreciate the small techniques that go into writing to create enticing literature and made me fall in love with reading all over again.

Tell us something you’ve learned about yourself since coming to Iona.
I've learned that I have a lot more to offer the world around me than I thought I ever could. Since joining the Iona community my freshman year, I've pursued various student leader roles, giving me a voice on campus and a responsibility to my fellow students and the school. Although the roles and responsibilities initially felt daunting and near impossible, with the support of my Iona family, I've grown into a capable and confident woman. I now feel genuinely prepared for whatever big opportunity comes next because of the newfound confidence Iona helped me find within myself.

Do you belong to clubs/teams? Or do you participate in other activities? Tell us about your experiences with Mission & Ministry, especially as a team leader.
Over my last three years at Iona, I've been a student Campus Minister in the Office of Mission & Ministry. This role has introduced me to amazing mentors, organizations, communities and individuals who I carry with me in all that I do. My favorite part of the role is bringing service, faith, spirituality and community to the student body. Being a Campus Minister has followed me into other clubs and activities that I participate in, bringing a diverse group of students together for great causes. My senior year, I was fortunate enough to be given the responsibility of team leader. I oversee the student team, run our weekly meetings and communicate with our professional staff. I couldn't think of a more perfect role for my senior year, as I've learned so much about leadership, management, organization and multitasking.

Other clubs I participate in are:

  • Phi Sigma Sigma sorority where I served as our Philanthropic Chair for 2020 
  • WICR as the Director of Music & Production 
  • Iona in Mission where I serve as the Public Relations Chair and was the IIM Zambia Team Leader for 2020/2021 
  • Gael Guide
  • Honors Program where I am the Chief Copy Editor for our award-winning newsletter, The Pinnacle

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?
I am currently working on my senior thesis for the Honors Program! My thesis is about book censorship and is a blend of my English and mass communications backgrounds, addressing the First Amendment concerns of book censorship and uses close readings of commonly censored and banned books. Book censorship is a topic that I'm extremely passionate about and hope to fight against it in my future career by helping to produce and advocate for rich works of literature. I've learned about the history of censorship throughout my research, as well as rediscovering some favorite novels that I'm honored to be able to represent and defend to the academic world. The biggest take away that I've taken from this research is that censorship isn't all that it seems. I've come to find that books you would never expect to be problematic have been banned from schools and libraries for reasons that deprive readers of integral lessons.

Has any class, professor, mentor or friend made an important impact on you since coming to Iona? How?
Hannah McGowan '20 became one of my best friends my sophomore year when Campus Ministry placed us as roommates in the Montgomery House. She helped me navigate my first year of Campus Ministry and acted as a role model from then on. I loved every second of being by Hannah's side as she was SGA President, the Campus Ministry Team Leader, and IIM India Mission Trip Leader, all while student teaching and completing her senior thesis. Hannah showed me that with hard work, you can accomplish everything Iona has to offer. Without her as an example, I don't think I would have had half the Iona experience that I've had thus far.

What are you looking forward in the future?
I'm most excited for my gap year before attending graduate school. Because of the pandemic, my post-grad plans have really gone out the window, which was extremely upsetting and stressful. But I'm coming to terms with the state of the world and looking forward to the vast opportunities the world has to offer me. Everything happens for a reason, and I have faith God will guide me where I need to be these next coming years of my life. There's excitement in the unknown and a thrill in not being tied down to any commitments during the best years of my life.

Any advice to prospective students?
Make the most of the four years you have here. Don't let fear hold you back from jumping in and getting involved. No one will tell you, but they're just as nervous and awkward as you are. So be the one to step out of your comfort zone. Life, especially college life, is too short to waste any time on small worries. Stop taking everything so seriously and live!