The Future of Public Service at MIT PKG Center Strategic Plan

Since that time, public service practices in higher education have evolved. What constitutes “service” has become more sophisticated, building upon a foundation of direct service volunteering with a new and expansive focus on rigorous curricular integration, reciprocal community partnerships, and measurable student learning outcomes.

Over the past 30 years, MIT's PKG Public Service Center has developed and launched more than 20 innovative service programs for MIT students. As we enter our fourth decade, the Center is examining our role within the Institute and how we can continue to inspire and support MIT students to contribute their talents and energies to solve the world’s greatest problems.

OUR MISSION: The PKG Center taps and expands MIT students’ unique skills and interests to prepare them to explore and address complex social and environmental challenges. We educate students to collaborate ethically and effectively with community partners to engage in meaningful public service, today and in their lives beyond MIT.

Under new leadership, the PKG Center has conducted a thorough and critical review of our existing programs including analyses of programmatic costs and benefits and indicators of student demand and selectivity.

  • We had face-to-face conversations with dozens of students, faculty members, campus colleagues, and community partners; we used survey instruments to reach even more stakeholders.
  • The Center staff, along with other MIT colleagues and students, visited peer institutions to learn about best practices in the field.
  • Finally, we presented preliminary directions and concepts to—and solicited valuable feedback from—the PKG Leadership Council, the Division of Student Life, Resource Development, the Alumni Association and MIT Club of Boston, and others.



Offer experiential and co-curricular student programming that is rigorous, progressively challenging, and academically aligned; and that helps students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for effective social change.

1. Expand and transform outdated or limited notions of “public service.”

  • 1.1. Offer programs that allow students to explore and experience a wider range of modes of social change .
  • 1.2. Develop programmatic depth in 2–4 topical or thematic issues (climate change, health/ medicine, humanitarian response).

2. Develop a comprehensive ecosystem of learning and doing that intentionally integrates experiential opportunities, co-curricular learning, and MIT’s exceptional academic curriculum.

  • 2.1. Offer multiple entry points and clear pathways through all three areas.
  • 2.2. Design programs to be flexible and diverse.
  • 2.3. Create modular opportunities for students to “layer” service experiences into existing programs like MISTI, UROP, and externships.

3. Define and track learning and developmental outcomes for all participants.

4. Instill a strong sense of community among MIT student participants.

5. Ensure that our programs are accessible and appealing to all MIT students.


Coordinate and support public service initiatives across the Institute; provide guidance and resources to expand capacity and improve outcomes for students and communities.

  1. Connect, coordinate, and inform public service initiatives across the Institute and amplify their impact.
  2. Meet students where they are through regular, strategic outreach.
  3. Grow existing campus collaborations and develop new ones that leverage existing programmatic platforms.
  4. Add value to MIT faculty and staff members engaged or interested in public service activities.
  5. Thoughtfully and meaningfully engage and celebrate alumni expertise and leadership in service.


Work with key non-profit and public agencies, and for-profit companies, at home and abroad, that can benefit from MIT’s distinctive strengths and provide high-quality student experiences.

1. Cultivate and sustain deep, reciprocal partnerships with a diverse set of organizations that can:

  • Engage MIT students in ways that are defined by the partners themselves, build partner capacity, and yield significant community impact;
  • Support MIT student learning and development through thoughtfully-designed, well-supervised real world experiences that are relevant to MIT students’ talents and interests; and
  • Offer opportunities across the entire calendar year, via multiple channels, and in a variety of geographic locations.

2. Identify new ways to thoughtfully and meaningfully engage practitioner expertise.

3. Establish clear processes to regularly solicit and vet new partnerships, orient incoming partners, ensure open communication and candid feedback, and recognize and thank partners for their contributions to student learning and the MIT community.


Scale our programs, streamline our systems, and refine our practices to devote more time to students and communities without sacrificing operational excellence.

1. Align existing resources and secure new resources to expand students’ access to, engagement in, and benefit from meaningful public service.

1.1 Diversify and grow PKG financial support; systematize and streamline financial functions.

  • Increase expendable gifts to support near-term program innovation and, in the longer-term, grow endowment support to provide permanent funding for core functions and programs.
  • Pursue support from new sources including private foundations and corporations.

1.2 Re-examine and adjust program staff responsibilities and job descriptions to reflect new priorities and directions; centralize administrative, financial, and communications functions with appropriate staff members.

2. Refine Center messaging and visual identity and refresh communications.

3. Invest in technology and software that increases engagement and efficiency.


The implementation of a new and ambitious agenda for public service at MIT will undoubtedly require the realignment of current resources and the attraction of new financial support. Peer institutions have recently and publicly committed significant resources to public service on their campuses. This plan aims to frame a similarly transformative vision for service, one that builds upon MIT’s unique assets and culture. With a creative student body, world-class faculty, and problem-solving culture, MIT has tremendous potential to build programs, forge partnerships, and spark social innovations that are transformative for students and communities—in the Institute’s own backyard and beyond.

We’re deeply grateful for the generous support of so many who have helped make the PKG Center an integral part of MIT’s community. We’re proud of our history and what we’ve accomplished thus far and invigorated by the opportunities on the horizon. We look forward to working together to help educate MIT students to build a better world.

MIT PKG Center • 77 Massachusetts Ave • Room W20-549 • Cambridge, MA 02139

Phone: 617-253-0742 • Email: pkgcenter@mit.edu • Web: pkgcenter.mit.edu

MIT Office of the Vice Chancellor

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