Women@INI Recognized at Second Annual Reception

March 05, 2008

The Information Networking Institute (INI) celebrated Women@INI (WINI) at the second annual reception honoring the student-run organization yesterday afternoon. Students and staff gathered in the lower level of the INI building to mingle and enjoy catered appetizers. Dena Haritos Tsamitis, Director of the INI, thanked the students for their participation and gave special recognition to this year's officers. Graduating members received gifts.

WINI coordinated several events for all INI students during the 2007-2008 academic year, including movie nights, a Halloween party and a personal finance seminar.

"This was something I always looked forward to," said Akshatha Ramanathan, Class of 2008, referring to WINI events.

Among WINI's highlights this year, community outreach events in the Pittsburgh region helped to promote the INI and raise awareness of cyber safety. WINI members equipped the Homeless Children's Education Fund with cyber safety materials, ran a booth at the SciTech Festival educational conference, and promoted science to youth for "Girls in Technology Night" at a local computing center.

Dena recognized WINI's outreach officer, Sanchita Sakhardande, Class of 2008, for her success in taking leadership in outreach, noting that she mobilized volunteers, established a reporting system, and worked to develop a structure for outreach activities.

"This was my first time doing outreach," Sakhardande noted. She thanked INI staff members Wiam Younes, Nancy Doyle, and Christa Jones for their support.

Graduating members spoke at the reception on why participating in WINI was important to them. Many credited WINI with giving them opportunities to develop personally and build leadership skills.

"What we learned at WINI we wouldn't have learned elsewhere," said Sanjana Reddy, a social officer. "We worked with different types of people and learned to work together."

"A wonderful experience. For the first time I was doing something beyond academia," said Rupsha Chaudhuri, another WINI social officer. Speaking to the rising class, she added, "As you get into it, you will realize it's an enriching experience."

A small handful of members who attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in October said the experience was important to their professional and personal development. Along with WINI, the Grace Hopper conference supports women in computing and engineering fields, an area traditionally dominated by men.

In closing, Haritos Tsamitis pointed to the room full of women and noted the situation was not typical of a computer science and engineering environment. Today, women make up roughly one-third of the INI student body. "When I joined the INI six years ago, there were two women in a class of 37."

"The purpose of WINI is to not only attract women to the INI but also to nurture you while you are here. WINI gives us an opportunity to do something not just for women but for all of INI," said Haritos Tsamitis. "Through your work, I hope you will inspire others who have not had this kind of opportunity."

WINI was founded in 2005 by Dena Haritos Tsamitis and former faculty member Chenxi Wang. Its goal is to create a nurturing and inspiring learning environment that promotes and celebrates gender and cultural equality and diversity, both within and beyond the INI.