The McKnight Foundation is pleased to announce that Tenzin Dolkar will serve as a program officer of the Midwest Climate & Energy (MC&E) program starting March 10. Dolkar has led significant climate initiatives in Minnesota and brings considerable public policy experience in transportation, buildings, and agriculture. She joins McKnight at a pivotal moment as we expand the MC&E program to take bold action on the climate crisis by dramatically cutting carbon pollution in the Midwest by 2030.
“We are thrilled to welcome Dolkar to our team, expanding our capacity to achieve McKnight’s ambitious climate goals,” said Sarah Christiansen, MC&E program director. “Dolkar is highly skilled at moving decarbonization ideas to action across transportation, buildings, and agriculture and is deeply collaborative, bridging across diverse stakeholders. She brings valued lived experience and inspired commitment to community partnership in policy development and governance at the scope and scale needed in this critical moment.”
In addition to Christiansen, the MC&E team includes program officer Brendon Slotterback, program team administrator Kelsey Johnson, and program and grants associate Sam Marquardt. In her role, Dolkar will oversee and develop grant portfolios that support efforts to build power through partnership, aligning McKnight’s climate and equity goals.
Climate Solutions and Community Impact in the Public Sector
Dolkar joins McKnight from the Natural Resources Defense Council partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge, where she serves as a climate advisor to the City of Minneapolis. In this role, she works with the city’s Office of Sustainability and Department of Public Works to accelerate transportation and building initiatives aimed at high-impact reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. These initiatives include the city’s blueprint for achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and, through a statewide better buildings code, net-zero energy as the standard for all new commercial buildings by 2036.
A coalition builder and community advocate, Dolkar views her work through a climate justice lens. In her work for the city, she created a framework for analyzing racial equity in designing climate programs. Additionally, she initiated and supported a coalition of environmental justice organizations and Black, Indigenous, and people-of-color community leaders to engage on energy issues, such as Xcel Energy’s 15-year Upper Midwest Integrated Resource Plan.
“Dolkar is highly skilled at moving decarbonization ideas to action across transportation, buildings, and agriculture and is deeply collaborative, bridging across diverse stakeholders.” —SARAH CHRISTIANSEN, MIDWEST CLIMATE & ENERGY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
From 2016 to 2018, Dolkar served as a senior policy advisor to Governor Mark Dayton on transportation and agriculture. She authored Governor Dayton’s executive order on self-driving vehicles and partnered with thousands of Minnesota farmers to develop the state’s Groundwater Protection Rule. In 2017, Governor Dayton appointed Dolkar to serve as Minnesota’s State Rail Director, overseeing public-private rail projects and developing rail safety and freight economic policies.
Dolkar was born in Odisha Phuntsokling, a Tibetan refugee settlement in eastern India, where she grew up farming and learning about water-scarcity and community-based environmental solutions. She holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in international studies with a minor in social work from the University of St. Thomas.