TLI Names Inaugural Recipient of the Froggatt Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship
The Technological Leadership Institute (TLI) is excited to announce first-year M.S. in Management of Technology (MOT) student Ambreen Athar as the inaugural recipient of the Kirk Froggatt Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship. The fellowship is named in honor of renowned TLI leadership instructor Kirk Froggatt, who held the Gemini Chair in Technology Management until his retirement this past spring. The fellowship recognizes students with a passion for fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in technology management and innovation.
Professor Froggatt announced Ambreen as the winner during a Technically Speaking panel discussion on DEI in Technology Leadership on November 15. He said there were several strong candidates, but Ambreen stood out for several reasons.
“Ambreen is someone with significant lived experience as a woman, a person of color, a Muslim and a working mom in a STEM discipline”, says Froggatt. ”She’s faced the challenge and the opportunity of being the ‘only one’ in many rooms over her career. In addition, she is actively engaged in supporting other underrepresented colleagues in her workplace.”
Ambreen was born and raised in a small city in Canada where her parents had immigrated to in the early 1970s from Pakistan. Her diverse background has created challenges throughout her life.
“I have felt vulnerable in the workplace because of my cultural and religious background,” she says. “I’ve been intimidated in conversations with comments regarding my faith and references to ‘those people’. I firmly believe that any one experience alone is not insurmountable, but it’s the many unmeasurable moments that do feel burdensome.”
While moments like these could easily fuel feelings of anger and resentment, Ambreen stays focused on the gifts her diverse background has given her.
“Being a child of immigrants, we are sometimes considered the ‘bridge’ or ‘buffer generation”, she says. “In a sense, we are able to see the nuances of different cultures through a unique lens and can relate to and see the intent behind both of them. I have unconsciously been using my experience as a ‘bridger’ my entire life,” she adds. “It manifests itself as sympathy, empathy and compassion. I use it in the workplace, in the classroom and social settings. Although it can be sometimes challenging, I recognize it is one of my greatest strengths. It ultimately leads me to foster an inclusive environment and pushes me to go that extra mile for someone else.”
She says diversity, equity, and inclusion are concepts that fundamentally promote the value of belonging and at its core recognize the value of all human beings. It is a formula to truly embrace the differences of race, culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and abilities.
“This award makes me feel that I matter,” says Ambreen. “It makes me believe that my differences are valuable. It sends me the message that TLI wants to advance diversity and inclusion efforts.”
Ambreen, who holds a bachelor’s degree in science and a master's in regulatory affairs, is hopeful that the technology industry will take the lead when it comes to DEI.
“We are, after all, the people who are at the forefront of change. We know change can lead to better things. That change can impact so many in meaningful ways,” she says. “The pace of technological advancement is accelerating so quickly and will demand a group of leaders who recognize the global nature of the work we do, the value of making meaningful change and the potential for growth that we have, not only in the technology itself but also as the human beings who design, create and deliver it.”
Ambreen, like her fellow MOT classmates, is using her unique lens to enhance the program experience by introducing each other to new ways of thinking.
“I absolutely love the program so far! It has opened my eyes to so many new ideas and concepts in technology while also rounding out my understanding of business operations and leadership,” she says. “ The biggest take-away so far has been learning about the value of strategic thinking in the complex and fast-paced area of technology.”
Already a leader in her field with nearly 20 years of experience, Ambreen is modeling the change she wants to see in her industry. She is using the skills she’s learned in the MOT program and equally as important, the varied perspectives of her instructors and peers to enhance her work as a Principal Regulatory Affairs Specialist in the Peripheral Interventions Division of Boston Scientific.
It all goes back to a simple, but powerful, lesson learned from her immigrant parents.
“They taught me to appreciate the differences of culture and to be aware that we can always learn from others, “ she says. “Being raised in an open-minded family is a gift I am grateful for every single day.”
The Froggatt Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship recipient Ambreen will receive $3,000 and the opportunity to engage with TLI and the broader University of Minnesota community to enhance DEI perspectives and practices.