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Winslow Sargeant meeting fellowship recipients
August 20, 2018

Winslow Sargeant Fellowship supports students on frontiers of computing

Written By: WARF

Before the summer recess, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) hosted a meeting of two accomplished computing students with Winslow Sargeant, the WARF trustee investing in their success.

Andrew Lambert (MSECE ’18) and Oghenefego Ahia (master’s degree candidate ’19) are recipients of Sargeant’s fellowship for underrepresented minorities pursuing advanced degrees in electrical and computer engineering.

Sargeant (PhDECE ’95) is senior vice president of partnerships and development (USA) for the International Council for Small Business (ICSB). A successful entrepreneur and policymaker, he was first elected to the WARF Board of Trustees in 2005.

He said his vision for the fellowship, which provides a stipend and covers tuition among other expenses, is all about passing it forward: “The analogy is being on the top floor, and sending the elevator back down for others.”

Lambert, from Spring Valley, New York, discussed his work on experimental quantum bits or ‘qubits’ – an essential step towards realizing the “exponential power” of quantum computing. He said the Winslow Sargeant Fellowship has had “a million implications,” like landing a summer internship at Fermilab in Illinois.

“Without it I wouldn’t be here,” Lambert says. “And if I weren’t here, I wouldn’t be able to go to Fermi.”

Ahia, from Lagos, Nigeria, described his passion for computer architecture, particularly hardware-software co-design. He said the fellowship has enabled him to focus on his research and “not have to worry” about financial strain.

He said he was attracted to UW–Madison because, at the time he was applying, it was one of a handful of universities in the world granted access to a computing platform he wanted to explore. “To have at your disposal tools at the frontier of technology was a big pull,” Ahia says.

Sargeant shared his experience both personal and professional – as a young man from Boston researching fiber-optics and optical detection at UW–Madison in the 1990s, then attaining success as an entrepreneur developing circuit technology during the formative years of the internet.

A WARF-funded fellowship changed the course of his own life, Sargeant says, allowing him to put his dreams over basic necessity. Now, as a WARF trustee giving the gift of education, “life has come full circle.”

“The [Winslow Sargeant] Fellowship was matched with WARF funds,” he notes. “This is another example of how WARF supports excellence in a diverse and inclusive graduate student body.”

Also present at the meeting were Todd Hollister, director of development, UW Foundation; College of Engineering Dean Ian Robertson; ECE Department Chair Susan Hagness; and John Booske, outgoing ECE department chair.