A Closer Look into The Environmental Entrepreneurs 1 Hotels Fellowship

Oct 06, 2021
Dr. Nicole R Mendoza, a 2020 Environmental Entrepreneurs 1 Hotels Fellow

Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) 1 Hotels Fellows identify pressing environmental issues and needs across the country, and then organize and execute projects that help communicate and amplify the business and economic case for smart policies to address these issues. Fellowships are restricted to early or mid-career professionals who currently work in sustainability, clean energy, water, infrastructure or related fields. Each fellow will receive a stipend of $20,000, plus other benefits.

We talked to Dr. Nicole Mendoza, a 2020 Environmental Entrepreneurs 1 Hotels Fellow, to learn more about the program and get some application tips.  

1. What inspired you to apply for the Environmental Entrepreneurs 1 Hotels Fellowship? 

My dream is to innovate, design, and engineer technology solutions to climate change and environmental degradation. I’m also highly entrepreneurial, constantly coming up with new technology ideas and how I can make money from them to build incredible, positive things. So Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) seemed like a perfect fit for my passions and ambitions. I reached out to them to become a member of their Emerging Leaders program, in which I could get help and wisdom to support my business ideas. That’s when I found out about the 1 Hotels Fellowship program and I applied. 

The project-based fellowship was very attractive because I had the freedom to pursue a topic area of my choosing that was aligned with my passions (in my case, carbon capture). It came with a lot of benefits, like mentoring and financial support. It became a great way to positively network in the field, support those in need, and learn about the industry. 

I had hoped to gain knowledge of the carbon capture and utilization (CCU) industry – who the players are, what the funding and policy environment were like, what were the challenges faced by these small companies, etc. I also wanted to network into the industry, and the project provided a positive avenue to do so. I’m happy to report that I achieved all of these things.

2. What are the benefits of the fellowship? 

The Fellowship (through E2) provides a lot of support. When the kickoff meeting happens, you meet with the previous year’s fellows and some E2 staff who help you figure out what success looks like, what to do and what not to do, lessons learned, etc. Over the course of the year-long project, you have the support of the E2 staff and an E2 mentor selected from the vast E2 network (usually an industry person). They help answer questions and make sure you’re on track. You’re also given $20,000 to support the project requirements – such as tools, travel, and product development costs (video editing, website creation, etc). You’re inducted into the E2 Emerging Leaders program, and have access to E2 content – national webinars, newsletters, legislative days, etc.

One of the biggest positives about the project is the flexibility – you work with your E2 staff member and E2 mentor to continuously discuss and adapt your project as it evolves. There is some flexibility in your timeline and deliverables (discussed with your staff and mentor, of course). The pandemic affected everyone’s project differently. I was fortunate in that I had crafted my project in a pandemic-friendly way (the vast majority of it was phone or video interviews). The E2 staff were very understanding and helped those with projects that weren’t as pandemic-friendly as much as possible. 

One of E2’s greatest strengths is its network – I met quite a few people that I still connect with on different fronts. My mentor and I were well-paired and we still stay in touch (on a quarterly basis) even after my project ended. Networking with the other fellows – both in my cohort and the previous year’s cohort – and seeing their projects was truly rewarding. I hope that these relationships will last our entire careers. Finally, my project was deliberately geared towards networking in the CCU industry, and it was definitely successful at that! I have followed up on several opportunities after the fellowship that arose during my project. My project allowed me to create new positive relationships in the CCU industry. 

I strongly believe that the fellowship has positively impacted my career in multiple ways. First, the incredible networking opportunities have greatly expanded my knowledge and wisdom in many areas, especially those related to starting my own business in the CCU industry. Second, I am now collaborating with an international organization that I met through my fellowship project, and I am now presenting at conferences and writing journal papers with them. I am also partnering with one of the small businesses I interviewed and supporting its growth and development as a business. Plus many other indirect benefits too!

3. What tips would you give others applying to the Environmental Entrepreneurs 1 Hotels Fellowship?

I have a couple of tips. First, always make sure you “answer the mail”. This means answering each application question directly – exactly how does your project and your idea address the question and fit within the mission and vision of the sponsoring organization. Doing this in any aspect of your life (interviews, job applications, etc.) will truly help your career. Second, craft a well-defined SMART project with reasonable, timely milestones and deliverables. Think about the end goal and work backwards – what do you need to do to achieve the goal(s)? Break it down step by step. Third, you only get out of it as much as you put into it. It’s usually best to under-promise and over-deliver, but don’t sell yourself short and don’t make it super easy. Challenge yourself to be the best you can be!

I think my application stood out because I have had previous project management experience, I have written successful project pitches in industry before, and I’m very passionate about my topic area. This previous experience allowed me to craft a very well-defined project about something I care deeply about. I will also note that my personal values align well with E2’s mission and vision, so that definitely helps 🙂

Interested in applying? Bookmark the Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) 1 Hotels Fellowship to your ProFellow account.

Dr. Mendoza is a Senior Researcher in Wind Energy Systems at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, working primarily in offshore floating and onshore wind energy. She is also an Environmental Entrepreneurs 2020 1 Hotels Fellow and Emerging Leader. Prior to this, she designed wind turbine blades for SGRE for about three years. As an aerodynamicist, she developed new airfoils, new blades, and various aerodynamic devices for onshore and offshore wind turbines. She has also worked for Boeing in the aerospace industry for roughly 3.5 years in various roles and was an emerging leader in Boeing’s Leadership Excellence Acceleration Program. She has a Ph.D. and B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M, supported by multiple scholarships, fellowships (NSF GRFP Fellow), honors, and awards. She has authored/co-authored a dozen conference papers and has two patents in progress. 

Dr. Mendoza is a passionate champion for women and minorities in STEM and renewable energy, diversity & inclusion, and saving the planet. She has mentored extensively, volunteered for various STEM-related educational outreach activities to K-12 girls, and served as a professional role model. She actively volunteers with multiple professional/social organizations focusing on women and minorities in STEM and environmental/ecological restoration.

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