Meet PKG: Danny Becker, Program Coordinator
Welcome to our staff profile series! In the next coming months, we look forward to introducing you to each member of our wonderful PKG team. First up, Danny Becker! Danny is our Program Coordinator and joined the Center last May (2018).
If you meet Danny Becker, you immediately know his upbeat energy, his compassion, his sense of humor. After joining the PKG Center in May 2018 as the Program Coordinator, Becker has quickly made himself an integral part of this small team of organizers. Listening to Becker’s MIT involvement—his work to build meaningful relationships with students and faculty, his deep understanding of the many MIT student groups and organizations, the events and workshops he helps organize to enrich the cultural and professional literacy of MIT community members—it feels all-too-easy to get overwhelmed. And yet, Becker zips in and out of the Center and flits around campus, always with a smile on his face. Looking back on the years that brought him here, it seems not much has changed.
“I was one of those students that was really involved,” Becker says. A proud Michigan-native (he even has a tattoo of the state’s outline), he attended Michigan State as an undergrad, studying International Relations and Comparative Cultures, with a minor in Portuguese to boot. In his time at MSU, it seems Becker was just as invested and community-minded as he is in his current role. “I was a four-year student government senator; I was an academic orientation RA; I was a James Madison College Ambassador,” he explains, chuckling a little at his young, energetic self with the humility of someone who, despite notable impact, knows they are still one working piece of a much larger picture.
“Looking back,” he says. “It makes complete sense why I work in Higher Ed now.” Midway through college, Becker took a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A course he initially viewed as a mere requirement for his major, ended up more seriously piquing his interest in Israel. And when a classmate told him about a recent birthright trip, Becker learned he was also eligible for a similar experience through an organization called the David Project. The David Project, a Jewish non-profit working all over the country, offered annual trips to one Jewish student leader and two non-Jewish student leaders every year. And so, ever the student leader, Becker applied for a spot and went to Israel on a trip that would influence his path through graduation and beyond.
“I definitely walked away from that trip having more questions than answers. And a lot of those questions, I later learned, are central to the Jewish experience,” Becker says of his time spent in Israel, doing everything from meeting with LGBTQ organizations in Tel Aviv to visiting the Western Wall. When he returned to campus soon after, he was inspired to continue working with and learning from the Jewish community, and when a position opened at the David Project around the time of graduation, Becker joined the non-profit as a Regional Coordinator.
“I spent two years directly out of college consulting with and for campuses across New York, New Jersey, and Nashville,” Becker says. And after those two years, he was promoted to Campus Manager, managing the programmatic side of the nonprofit and overseeing teams of consultants across the country from where he lived in Boston. After another year, the job brought him to New York, where he would end up finishing his time with the David Project and opening a new door.
“I was ready to invest in my life holistically,” Becker says. “And as I was looking for what I wanted to do next professionally, [my partner] actually sent me the PKG posting.” From there, Becker only got more excited about PKG. “Through the application process, I fell in love with the Center’s work, specifically the cultural competency aspect,” Becker says. “Our staff and our team emphasize the fact that the experts on community issues are those who live in the community,” he continues. “And I think that is something you don’t see very often.”
In his current role, Becker is once again the person who is hyper-involved. He helps run our Get Good Stuff Done series, a series of workshops and events that brings together a variety of community partners and MIT organizations. He leads our student recruitment and outreach by connecting with students themselves, student groups and organizations, as well as with other centers on campus. He is the faculty advisor for MITVote and for the new student group COMIT. He has worked closely with the Student Activities Office to roll out Engage, a newly formed platform that helps track student attendance and engagement at campus events and gatherings. And, on top of his personal responsibilities, Becker provides support and lends his eager helping hands to the rest of the team at PKG.
“[My role] is me building relationships… and just ensuring that the PKG Center has a sense of what’s going on and [making sure] that we are connecting to opportunities where we can work together with different partners,” Danny says of his position. “It’s really just creativity,” he continues. “From my experience, the most important aspect of all of this is to create a space where students can talk about their actual concerns and where they can feel comfortable saying ‘this is where I need additional support’.” Danny hopes the PKG Center, the Center’s programming, advising and workshop series can be there to provide that additional support, in all public service endeavors, regardless of scale, scope or timeframe.
In the coming year, Danny is looking forward to a sense of calmness, to relaxing into this role and really focusing on living a more low-key life. His ride-or-die movie is Selena (1997), which follows the heartbreaking and inspiring story of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, a Mexican-American singer and songwriter who was murdered by one of her fans at the height of her success. Danny says his family would stop everything to watch it every time it came on TV.
“My family is from that area of Texas and I know what it’s like to live there. To see someone come out of that is really inspiring.”