Elected to the Board of the Friends of Wisconsin Public Television just a few months ago, Masood Akhtar, of Middleton, is adding service to WPT to his already impressive list of activities.
Read on to learn more about this community activist and the experience he hopes to bring to the Board!
A scientist who has founded and led multiple entities, including CleanTech Partners Inc.; BioPulping International Inc. (a UW-Madison spinoff); and the Biorenewable Deployment Consortium. Recently, he founded Empowering Students for Success, Inc. aiding students from low and middle-income families in accessing higher education.
One of Akhtar’s most visible efforts is a statewide, nonpartisan movement he founded called We Are Many: United Against Hate. A self-described “proud American Muslim” and naturalized American citizen, he founded the movement to organize events focusing on teaching forgiveness and peace, addressing the root causes of hate to fight bigotry and racism and build inclusive communities. He is especially interested in working with young people.
Read more in this recent Isthmus article.
Born in India, Akhtar came to the United States in 1984 through a highly competitive India Abroad Scholarship, doing postdoctoral work at The Ohio State University. As a Muslim, he was a minority in India as well as the United States, but he beat the odds, as one of only 50 recipients out of 60,000 applicants.
“After spending two years in America, I told my dad I had set up three goals: help America, help India, and help the needy,” he says. “I decided to stay in America because these goals were not achievable if I would have moved back to India at that time. Today, I’m doing exactly what I told my dad over 35 years ago.”
Akhtar’s experiences have helped him bring empathy to his service on Dane County’s Immigration and Refugee Task Force, aimed to foster trust between local law enforcement officials and the immigrant and refugee communities. Honors include the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Certificate of Appreciation, the national 2018 Director’s Community Leadership Award from the FBI, and a Certificate of Achievement from Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers.
“If you are born in this country, you may or may not realize what America offers,” he says. “Work as hard as you can to keep this country united. Together we can build an inclusive community and a stronger America free of violence and extremism. We just have to speak with one voice against those who want to divide or even destroy us. Believe in the checks and balances of our Constitution, which is our hope.”
Over the years, Akhtar has connected with WPT personally and professionally, including recent grant collaborations and presentations to Wisconsin Public Television employees. His wide-ranging experience and deep commitment to uniting people from different backgrounds made him a solid choice to represent statewide viewers on the Friends Board.
He hopes to further this commitment by creating more opportunities for underrepresented voices, rural and urban, to be heard throughout the state through internships, promotion of success stories, “Friendship Clubs” and more.
In Akhtar’s view, public media’s nonpartisan approach and unbiased, balanced reporting has a compelling mission that engages diverse groups of people. He sees his anti-bigotry work impacting communities in a similar way, and encourages everyone to join him.
“Remember: If you are not at the table, you are on the table,” says Akhtar. “So, let’s be proactive and strategic in our approaches. Let’s get started now: You are only one phone call away.”