Women in Informatics students champion iSchool outreach

The iSchool’s newest student organization, Women in Informatics (WINFO), has already sponsored a variety of creative social and educational events to help female students in the Informatics program connect with each other and with other women in STEM majors across the UW campus. The leadership (pictured left) includes Courtney Dutton, Stella Stuckey, Jenna Tollefson, and Jenna Terhar.

WINFO, which was formed at the beginning of the 2012 school year, has the formal goal of “empowering women to thrive as producers of technology by establishing and maintaining a network of women that offer encouragement, support, and the ongoing knowledge needed or desired to succeed.”

“Research has shown women who have a supportive community, mentors, sponsors, coaches and  opportunities for real life computing experiences stay in and graduate from computer and information science programs,” says Rane Johnson, executive advisor to WINFO and education and scholarly principal research director at Microsoft Research.

Kathryn Kuan, who was the first WINFO president, summed it up this way, “You join and you help others and you also help yourself.”

Kuan, who graduated in December 2012, turned over the president's role to Terhar who says the organization continues to focus on recruiting members, many of whom are younger women who have taken the iSchool’s INFO 200 class.

Current WINFO members offer to help women interested in applying to the Informatics program with their applications, especially their personal essays. The iSchool accepts applications for the Informatics program between April 15 and June 15 every year.

The iSchool has a strategic goal of doubling enrollment in the Informatics program in the next three years and increasing the percentage of women in the program from its current rate of 30%.

WINFO members, who have a passion for technology and information, are great ambassadors for the iSchool’s student recruitment efforts. Here are just a few of the many outreach events they have organized or helped to sponsor in the past six months:

  • WINFO, Microsoft Women of Research, and Women In Bio Seattle Metro joined forces to bring the passion, spirit and energy of TEDxWomen to the University of Washington in December 2012. Katie Davis, assistant professor of the iSchool was invited to speak on “How Youth Today Differ from Pre-Digital Youth.”
  • Participated in the Computer Science and Engineering week where WINFO students visited high schools in the area to talk with young women considering college STEM majors.
  • Held the first all-women Hackathon on the UW campus in association with Microsoft. WINFO organized teams of students to work on projects related to human trafficking that included helping to build an encrypted website with live chat and reporting for Rights4Girls, and creating a digital index called “Girl Power” for FAIR Girls to safely and securely connect trafficked young women with resources that can help them.
  •  Participated in the iSchool booth at UW Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Conference in March 2013.

They also know how to have fun. WINFO sponsored an "Ugly Sweater and Gingerbread House Making Mixer" for the holidays last year. 

WINFO is open to both men and women students at UW. To find out how to join, contact Jenna Terhar, WINFO president at jterhar@uw.edu.