Mária Telkes Fellowship

Updated January 8, 2024 | Cleantech Leaders Roundtable & Clean Energy Business Network

The Mária Telkes Fellowship is hosted by the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable and Clean Energy Business Network. Cleantech Leaders Roundtable (CTLR) is a community of peers including cleantech CEOs, investors, and influencers. This community facilitates trusted exchange of information, collective problem-solving through partnerships, and amplification of individual business and communications efforts. The Clean Energy Business Network (CEBN) is the small business voice for the clean energy economy, and partners closely with CTLR on events and industry collaboration.

The application cycle for the 2023-2025 cohort is open from January 10-March 31, 2024 . Finalists will be contacted around July-August 2024 and invited to participate in a brief virtual interview; reference checks will also be conducted at that time and selected fellows will be announced in September 2024.


What are the goals of the Mária Telkes Fellowship?

The program will match each fellow up with an experienced and well-connected senior leader in the cleantech industry, who will serve not only as a mentor but a sponsor who can foster relationship-building and professional growth to help champion their mentee on a path to executive leadership. This program is intended to help talented individuals tap into networking connections, positive exposure, and champion-building opportunities to realize their full potential for leadership. While certainly not a comprehensive solution to the lack of diversity in the cleantech industry, this initiative will help provide more inclusive and expanded access to professional growth opportunities. We seek to advance fellows with an interest in working in cleantech business, technology innovation, or nonprofit leadership.

The program is broad in focus and seeks to encourage diversity in all its forms, including but not limited to race, color, religion, culture, age, national origin, ancestry, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, and economic status.

Who was Mária Telkes?

The fellowship is named in honor of Mária Telkes (December 12, 1900 – December 2, 1995), a Hungarian-American biophysicist, scientist, and inventor who worked on solar energy technologies. Telkes is considered one of the founders of solar thermal storage systems, earning her the nickname “the Sun Queen.” She was a prolific inventor of practical thermal devices, including a miniature desalination unit (solar still) for use on lifeboats, which used solar power and condensation to collect potable water. She moved to Texas in the 1970s and consulted with a variety of start-up solar companies, including Northrup Solar, which subsequently became ARCO Solar, and eventually BP Solar. By the time of her death, at the age of 95, Mária held 20 patents, most of them relating to solar energy innovations. Rising through the cleantech industry in a time when many women faced significant barriers in the workforce, particularly in scientific areas, Mária can serve as an inspiration to future generations of cleantech leaders.

What benefits will fellows receive?
  • Each selected applicant will be matched with an executive mentor for a two-year period. Mentors will meet with the mentee on a regular basis (at least quarterly) to provide coaching, help navigate workplace challenges, provide guidance on a career path, and share general advice and networking strategy.
  • Fellows will also be given complimentary membership in CTLR and CEBN’s Executive Circle, providing access to frequent, intimate networking events and opportunities for exposure/leadership within the cleantech community.
  • While the program is expected to last two years, the mentorship itself does not have a time limit; each mentor will be making a long-term commitment to help the selected candidate throughout her or his career.
What qualifications/attributes should candidates possess?
      • Candidates should ideally be mid-career professionals/have at least several years’ experience in cleantech sectors OR hail from relevant expertise (e.g., business, engineering, etc.) that they are seeking to pivot to a career in cleantech. This fellowship is geared more towards championing executive/leadership potential rather than mentoring entry-level professionals. See the previous cohorts of fellows for reference: 2021-2023 Fellows, 2022-2024 Fellows.
      • Early signs of leadership potential/community engagement are helpful but not required (e.g., active role in professional organizations, community organizations, church, school groups, a large number of social media followers, etc.).
      • We particularly encourage applicants from a diversity of backgrounds, ideas, and experiences. In your application, please feel free to discuss any experiences you wish to identify that may enhance your experience/qualifications for this fellowship.
      • We are open to a broad range of candidates! Even if you do not precisely fit our description we encourage you to apply and make the case for how you would be a good fit for the program.