Photos courtesy of Winslow Sargeant

According to University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus Winslow Sargeant, PhD (1995), these are the most exciting times to be alive. 

“Our world has problems and challenges, yet finding solutions is how people can make their mark,” said Sargeant, who resides in Great Falls, Va.

As Chair of the Board for the International Council for Small Businesses (ICSB) in Washington D.C., Sargeant works with people all over the world who are making their mark through initiative and innovativeness. ICSB’s mission is to promote the growth and development of small businesses worldwide. 

Sargeant has made a career out of solving problems and now helps those who undertake their own solutions through enterprise. 

“I represent small business interests and work with government bodies to build a healthy ecosystem for small businesses and entrepreneurs,” he explained.

Trained as an engineer, Sargeant is a natural problem solver. He began his career in the early 1990s at IBM in Rochester, Minn., creating fiber optics and optical detectors. A few years later, he moved on to AT&T Bell Laboratories (now Nokia Bell Labs) in Allentown, Penn. 

In 1997, he cofounded a successful technology company, AANetcom, designing computer chips to speed up data for telecom and broadband applications.

“Knowing how to identify problems and how to formulate solutions are skills that transfer to entrepreneurship,” he said. 

After selling the company, he managed the Small Business Innovations Research program at the National Science Foundation for four years. In 2009, President Obama nominated Sargeant for the position of Chief Counsel for Advocacy at the U. S. Small Business Administration. He received a recessed appointment to his position by President Obama in August 2010, after waiting more than 300 days for a confirmation vote in the US Senate. Sargeant was unanimously confirmed in November 2011.

He has found his calling as a champion for entrepreneurship, and he is passionate about making sure the voice of small businesses is heard.

“The American dream is to build an enterprise—to start, nurture and grow a small business,” he said.

Sargeant attributes his career success to the many good people he’s met along the way, colleagues from UW and other schools, who gave helpful advice and training. 

“The environment in Madison helped me think like an entrepreneur and made me want to be successful as I progressed in business,” he said. 

Sargeant maintains his UW ties by serving as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). WARF partners with UW research “to solve the world’s problems” by providing industry resources and funding for emerging technologies. Sargeant recognizes the value of WARF’s support during his education and wants to pay it forward. 

“When I was a UW student, somebody I didn’t know provided the resources for me to excel,” he said. “I stand on the foundation of those who paved the way. Now I want to be a brick within that structure, providing support for those after me, who will go even further.”

Thinking about this year’s college and high school graduates, Sargeant is filled with hope. 

“The past few years, in the face of adversity, these students have trained, studied and persevered. They have proven they can accomplish a lot and be successful.”

Sargeant visits campus a few times a year and continues to feel its energy and promise.

“It’s such a rich, collaborative environment, so alive with smart people from all over the world,” he said.

He has been inspired by such role models who have demonstrated anything is possible. Now at the height of his career, making an impact on the world stage, he himself is one to watch for inspiration, an outstanding role model for the next generation. 

Sargeant looks forward to his next trip to Madison this summer, where he will reconnect with his network of business associates and friends and, hopefully, relax aside Lake Mendota with a dish of Babcock ice cream.