ST. PAUL – Minnesota (April 30, 2020) – The Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence is delighted to announce this year’s 133 honorees who will be recognized at the 8th Annual Minnesota Aspirations in Computing (MNAiC) Award ceremonies in May and June.  Due to COVID-19, the award ceremonies which were originally scheduled to occur in April are being offered as virtual celebrations.  The top-level awards ceremony to honor 43 recipients is set for May 20th.  The Rising Star event to honor 37 recipients will occur on June 20, followed by a Certificate of Distinction event on June 27, to honor 53 awardees.    

Although Governor Walz’s stay-at-home order may be relaxed in mid-May, MNAiC is taking no chances regarding in-person gatherings.  This year's recognition and celebration events will be offered virtually. “We’re committed to ensuring the safety of the 600 people who were expected to gather in-person to cheer on the honorees” says Russell Fraenkel, Director of IT Career Pathways and Partnerships.  “It's especially important that during this time of unsettling news that these young women, their families, our generous sponsors, and the Minnesota community, are afforded a perfectly sized dose of great news.”  

Over the past 8 years, nearly 500 young women from high schools across the state have been recognized at various levels for their technical prowess. MNAiC’s parent organization, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is the only national non-profit focused on women's participation in computing across the entire ecosystem, helping more than 1,240 organizations recruit, retain, and advance women from K-12 and higher education through industry and entrepreneurial careers by providing support, evidence, and action. The young women from Minnesota being honored all share a common desire to develop and utilize technology to solve a host of community and social issues. 

The Rising Star and Certificate of Distinction virtual ceremonies are being hosted by Optum, AnitaB.org - Minneapolis, and General Mills in late June.  Nearly 30 businesses/organizations propel MNAiC year-round initiatives to inspire and empower young women to pursue technology education and career aspirations.  For many companies, MNAiC serves as an IT talent pipeline. 

MNAiC leads multiple initiatives throughout the year to connect young women to a supportive community of tech professionals and resources.  The organization’s key engagement strategies include the #MNGirlsDisruptTech campaign, Strength In Numbers, Where Are They Now series, job shadow experiences, paid internships, MentorMash, and SPARCS year-round activities, designed for any young woman exploring technology.  Learn more about the 2020 Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Award Honorees, including two educator honorees, and a NCWIT collegiate award finalist from Minnesota.

Among Minnesota’s honorees are 10 students who were chosen as national honorable mention awardees.  These young women scored in the top 8% from a field of over 4,500 applicants from across the nation. Those achieving national-level recognition in 2020 are: 

  • Mary Ghebremeskal (South High School, Minneapolis)
  • Sahana Vandayar (Maple Grove Senior High School)
  • Sarah Ali (South High School, Minneapolis)
  • Audrey Douglas (Annandale High School)
  • Kate Harris (DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis)
  • Claire Jensen (South High School, Minneapolis)
  • Abigail Kunkle (Roseville Area High School)
  • Katie Liu (Wayzata High School)
  • Aliyah Sahal (Blaine High School)
  • Meg Sebastian (Convent of The Visitation School, Mendota Heights)

Special thanks to Champion Partner Target, and Pillar Partners Anita Borg, Best Buy, Land O’Lakes, and SPS Commerce for their generous financial contributions. Visit the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing page to view and appreciate the “Strength in Numbers” support provided by an impressive coalition of Minnesota businesses and organizations.

For more information, contact Russell Fraenkel, MN Aspirations Committee, at (651) 253-9438 or russell.fraenkel@metrostate.edu.


Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Partners 

Anita Borg, AVI, Best Buy, BDPA, Code42, Collective.ly Digital, Datasite (Merrill Corporation), General Mills, HelpSystems, Information Systems Security Association, Land O’Lakes, Microsoft, Minnesota High Tech Association - Women Leading in Technology, Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence, Minnesota STEM Partnership, Minnesota Twins, Optum, Prime Therapeutics, Securian, SPS Commerce, STEM Fuse, Stoneridge Software, Target, Thomson Reuters, ThreeBridge Solutions,Trimble,Twin Cities Chapter of the Association of Women in Computing, Unisys, and Veritas Technologies. You can become an impactful partner too!  To find out how, visit Sponsor MNAiC

About National Center for Women & Information Technology

Formed in 2004, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a non-profit community of more than 1,200 universities, companies, non-profits, and government organizations working together to increase girls’ and women’s meaningful participation in computing. NCWIT equips change leaders with resources for taking action in recruiting, retaining, and advancing women from K–12 and higher education through industry and entrepreneurial careers. To find out more, visit www.ncwit.org.

About Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence

The IT Center is in the business of Engaging Industry, Enhancing Education, and Inspiring Students to develop a more robust IT workforce in Minnesota. A Center of Excellence within the Colleges and Universities of Minnesota State (formerly MnSCU). It is located at Metropolitan State University, St. Paul Midway campus. For more information, visit mnstateitcoe.org.