When I joined the INI six years ago, there were two women in a class of 37,” said Dena Haritos Tsamitis, speaking to a room of female students. Haritos Tsamitis, Director of the Information Networking Institute (INI), was addressing the members of Women@INI (WINI), an organization dedicated to promoting gender and cultural equality and diversity. Women now make up almost one-third of the INI student body, and the organization has played a large role in encouraging this increase in diversity.
In 2005, Dena Haritos Tsamitis and Chenxi Wang formed WINI. Their intention was not only to attract women to the INI, or to the predominantly male-populated fields of computer science and engineering, but also to support those female students during their time in the Carnegie Mellon programs.
A primary focus for WINI members is to become involved in the community through outreach programs. The organization participates in “Girls in Technology Night,” which focuses on exposing middle- and high-school girls to creative technologies. WINI has held cybersafety training sessions for the teaching staff at the Homeless Children's Education Fund (HCEF) shelters. And the group is involved in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conferences and partners with the Executive Women’s Forum (EWF) to offer an INI scholarship program.
WINI has also helped to increase the local presence of the INI by running a booth at the SciTech Festival, Network Connection and Resource Fair, and the Carnegie Mellon in the Community Event. Members organize social events for students as well, including movie nights, ice cream socials, and a Halloween party.
But WINI members feel that they benefit more than anyone from the organization. “What we learned at WINI we wouldn't have learned elsewhere,” says Sanjana Reddy, a WINI alumna. “We worked with different types of people and learned to work together.” Rupsha Chaudhuri agrees with Reddy. “A wonderful experience. For the first time I was doing something beyond academia. As you get into it, you will realize it's an enriching experience.