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Recognizing WINI

March 02, 2009

The Information Networking Institute (INI) honored Women@INI, popularly known as WINI, with a spring reception on Friday in the Danforth Lounge. WINI actively promotes diversity and equality among students by organizing a wide variety of social, education and outreach events throughout the year for the INI and the local community. The student members of WINI attended the reception, along with Dena Haritos Tsamitis, Director of the INI, Lorrie Cranor, the organization's faculty advisor, and the women staff members of the INI.

An annual event, the spring reception first took place three years ago as a gesture of thanks for the organization's work. It has since evolved into a much-anticipated tradition that recognizes the graduating WINI members and a passing of responsibility to the next rising class of women. Twenty-one WINI members will graduate this year, including three in Athens, Greece, one in Kobe, Japan, and one in Aveiro, Portugal.

This year, the students presented gifts, framed photographs of themselves, to Tsamitis and Cranor. The INI presented the graduating students with certificates and a gift bag containing a traditional silver WINI key chain and the INI's signature box of chocolates. Each of the current officers talked about what their experience with the organization meant to them during their time at Carnegie Mellon.

"Having a hands-on role to bring more women into technology—that was a high point," said Divya Ashok, WINI Outreach Officer and second-year graduate student at the INI.

During the 2008-2009 academic year, WINI extended membership to women students enrolled in INI global programs in Silicon Valley, Greece, Japan and Portugal, in an effort called WINI Global.

"The next year will be very special for WINI. In reaching out to the global locations, you will have a very significant role to play," said Aditi Suhas Pendharkar, Chair of the organization and a second-year graduate student. Later in the reception, the INI awarded Pendharkar the role of WINI Alumni Ambassador, in honor of her past contributions and a lasting sense of belonging to the organization.

Tsamitis co-founded WINI four years ago after seeing other student groups form in support of women in science and technology, which have been traditionally male-dominated fields. The INI Director attested to the growing number of women in the INI student body, starting from a small handful to now representing approximately one-third of the class. In her message to current students, she emphasized building bonds with fellow classmates, calling them "your colleagues," and taking care to maintain those relationships as a source of support after graduation.

The first-ever "WINI Global" event will take place on March 27 at 11:30 a.m. Visiting author Christina Tynan-Wood will speak at the Distributed Education Center at the Collaborative Innovation Center. WINI will broadcast the event to INI students at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley and Athens Information Technology.