Portrait of Savannah Carr.

Savannah Carr

Taking a leap of faith

May 13, 2024

Savannah Carr had never been to Notre Dame prior to applying as a high school student. The Miami native had never even visited the Midwest before. The COVID-19 pandemic had prevented her from ever stepping foot on campus before making one of the biggest decisions of her life.

But a Notre Dame pennant hung on the wall in her room, sent to her from Notre Dame Admissions during the acceptance season, and it was enough to give her the courage to take a leap of faith and commit to the University, sight unseen.

“Having that pennant was a physical thing I could hold because I couldn’t physically come to campus,” Carr said. But while grappling with her decision, Carr received a generous financial aid package from the University, which cinched the deal for her.

Savannah Carr stands in front of a wood door holding a pennant with the words Notre Dame on it.
In front of her childhood home in Miami, Savannah Carr poses with her Notre Dame pennant and acceptance letter, excited for the journey ahead.

It ended up being the best decision she ever made. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, Carr has gone all-in and involved herself with a long list of various professional associations, college clubs, and extracurricular activities that not only add to her own academic experience, but allow her to give back to her fellow students and local community.

Carr, who is majoring in computer science in the College of Engineering and minoring in digital marketing through the Mendoza College of Business, has found one way to give back to the community of Notre Dame football fans, in particular. She has been a member of the Band of the Fighting Irish all four years as a clarinetist, and in her senior year she was chosen to be an assistant drum major. In the Band Ambassador Program, Carr reaches out to prospective students who have been accepted to Notre Dame and welcomes them, encouraging them to join the band if they play an instrument or would be interested in learning how to play one.

Leading the band as drum major has been one of Carr’s greatest joys. “I love that quiet moment, right before giving the command for everyone to play, when I get to make nothing into something—bringing all of the individual instruments together to play as one. It truly makes a big impact on all the fans who hear it.”

Carr said one of the other important decisions she made was signing up for a study abroad program at the University of Sydney, Australia, in the spring semester of her junior year to continue studying computer science. Up until that moment, she’d never traveled outside of the United States. “It was a complete leap of faith for me to be in a completely different country for the first time in my life,” Carr remembered.

“I had never been so far from home before. And I kept asking myself, ‘What if something bad happens to me while I’m there?’ But then I also had to ask, ‘What if nothing bad happens, and what if this ends up being the best opportunity I’ve ever been able to take advantage of?’

Carr said the experience changed her life and gave her the courage to travel internationally again—this time to Aviva Stadium in Dublin to lead the marching band in the Notre Dame versus Navy football game last August.

Assistant drum major Savannah Carr stands at the front of a parade with the Notre Dame band in Dublin.
Savannah Carr, assistant drum major, leads the Notre Dame Marching Band down Dame St. (renamed Notre Dame Street for the day) in Dublin for their pregame concert ahead of the 2023 Aer Lingus Classic football game. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame).
Assistant drum major Savannah Carr gives a fist bump to another band member on the Notre Dame football field.
Assistant Drum Major Savannah Carr gets pumped up before the Notre Dame versus University of Pittsburgh football game on October 28, 2023. (Photo by Mary Kate McGuirk/University of Notre Dame).

Beyond her academic and band commitments, Carr is proud of her membership in Notre Dame’s Society of Women Engineers, which allows her to connect with alumnae who have gone on to have successful careers in various fields of engineering. Those networking opportunities have given Carr valuable assets of advice and mentoring. “Having other female engineers be available to answer my questions is extremely helpful, especially in such a male-dominated field,” Carr said.

Carr has used her technology skills outside of class by interning with Notre Dame’s Undergraduate Admissions office as a digital media intern, where she creates content for University social media channels and writes posts for the Student Perspectives blog. With her big smile and charismatic personality, it is the perfect place for Carr to share an enthusiastic voice with prospective students about what kinds of opportunities they can expect to have on the Notre Dame campus. And it gives her the chance to digitally showcase life at Notre Dame to others who may not be able to visit campus in person for various reasons.

“Because everything online is permanent, I know I’m leaving a lasting impact on those future generations of Notre Dame students,” Carr explained. “Which makes it all the more important to have a positive smile, be down-to-earth, and be willing to talk about different perspectives.”

Demonstrating the diversity of the Notre Dame community and each individual’s experience is another theme in Carr’s work with the Show Some Skin initiative, an annual performance of monologues written and submitted anonymously by students, faculty, and staff from the Notre Dame, Holy Cross, and Saint Mary’s community. The goal of the show is to give voice to unspoken stories about identity and difference, and to create a safe space for people to share their joys, discoveries, and triumphs, as well as their pain, sorrows, and trauma.

“This initiative is about showing people grace, giving them an avenue to share their stories, and helping them unburden themselves and find healing,” Carr said. “And to help remind ourselves that people from all walks of life come to Notre Dame and it should always be a welcoming place for everyone.”

Carr extends her positive influence off campus as well, acting as a computer science mentor to students at a local high school in South Bend. There, she has been working with a group of seniors who are developing an anxiety tracker app for their peers to use to gauge their daily anxiety levels and find solutions through encouraging messages, activities, or videos.

Helping to create the app and assisting with behind-the-scenes coding allows Carr to empower the next generation to address the mental health crisis currently plaguing young people across the country.

Savannah Carr and a group of friends stand if front of beautiful scenery.
Taking a day trip out of the city, Savannah Carr and fellow Notre Dame study abroad students immerse themselves in nature and explore the Blue Mountains National Park, located 90 minutes outside of Sydney, Australia.

“Things have definitely changed since I was in high school,” Carr noted, “and it’s been amazing to watch these students grow in their coding skills—and gain confidence in those skills—and to see how committed they are to do something that can make a difference in their school.”

Carr will soon be taking those same mentoring skills to London for six weeks as a program assistant for Notre Dame’s engineering summer study abroad program, an opportunity she sees as a way to guide future cadres of computer scientists to create technology that will benefit users’ lives. “I want to be a part of making something that positively impacts someone’s mental or physical health, that contributes to their well-being,” she added.

Whether Carr is coding in the classroom, working abroad, writing a story on Instagram, or leading her beloved marching band down the field, it is clear that she is a strong leader who cares about her future and the future of Notre Dame students everywhere. But it wasn’t something that she came to without pause.

“It was really important for me to step out and get out of my comfort zone,” she said. “And coming out of that COVID experience, feeling shy and reserved, and having this big responsibility on my shoulders to do well at Notre Dame—all of it led me to the conclusion that I had to show up and show out, and make the most of my time here.”

And she certainly has.