Meet PKG: Chiara Magini, Social Impact Employment and Community Partner Engagement
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. Without further ado, Chiara Magini! Chiara does our Social Impact Employment and Community Partner Engagement. She’s been with the PKG Center since 2016.
“I was born, raised, studied and started working in Italy,” Chiara Magini says, at the very start of retelling her meandering journey to MIT. “I have a very convoluted story and background,” she says, laughing. Magini, who has been with the PKG Center for over three years, is currently the Senior Program Administrator of Social Impact Employment. With her kindness and sense of humor, it is no surprise that Magini holds such a forward-facing role here at MIT, spending her days working with community partners and students alike to build and facilitate healthy relationships across campus and all over Boston. And her background, diverse as it is, makes her uniquely qualified to form these bonds.
Since the start of her professional development, Magini has been involved in career services and training. While she holds a Master’s in History, she originally trained as a career advisor directly out of school. “I was working as a freelance consultant for some universities,” she says, “namely the University of Pisa and the University of Florence, and I also worked a lot for local public services.” From municipal service for job seekers, to long-term unemployment cases, to working with student workers, Magini says her early working days were spent on “both sides of the spectrum.” Her work was always shifting. And so, when Magini took a personal leap and moved to Ireland after a lifetime in Italy, it seems she was well-equipped to start something new.
“I reinvented myself,” she says of re-establishing herself in Ireland. “I had no idea about the job market in Ireland, so I reinvented myself as a volunteer placement officer for Volunteer Ireland.” Magini says this as a matter of fact statement, but her transformation is an impressive one. Her work with Volunteer Ireland is characteristically diverse, as Magini gets involved in developing good connections between partners and volunteers, writing grants to fund new programs as well as growing and promoting programs focused on communities that are typically underrepresented in the job market. “I had a specific responsibility to increase diversity in the volunteer body,” Magini says. “And then I was also working with organizations that were thinking… in terms of how can we promote volunteering to our clients as a way of going back to work or as an alternative to work?”
“At the time,” Magini explains, “there was a huge wave of immigration to Ireland, and any people were there as asylum seekers who were in kind of a limbo.” Asylum seekers were barred from working, they were not granted refugee status, and so they had nothing to do in a new and unfamiliar place. And so, Magini set about building opportunities for this floating community. “We were working especially with them to see if volunteering could be a way to start engaging in civic life in a new country,” Magini says. The project grew under Magini, and it continued to grow even after her time with Volunteer Ireland drew to a close.
After years of being in Ireland, the rain started to wear on Magini and her husband, and when the opportunity arose, they made their next big move to the States. Once in Massachusetts, Magini stayed home for a while, spending time with her kids and focusing on settling into a new place. But she always knew she wanted to return to work, and soon found herself looking for opportunities in the nonprofit sector, career development and higher education. “When you move, when English isn’t your first language, you have to compromise,” she says. “And so, I found a couple of odd jobs… at Harvard Medical school, and then I got back to full-time employment working around immigrant integration.” But still, the final goal was to get to higher education, and when the opportunity at the PKG Center opened up, Magini applied.
“I love connecting resources,” Magini says of her current position and of those past. “I feel that my kind of motivation for the type of work that I’ve done, even in different contexts, was always trying to match demand and offer.” Magini’s face lights up at the thought of this central driving factor: to connect. “I feel that there’s always this great potential of someone who looks for something and someone who offers that something.” Now at PKG, Magini helps see that potential to fruition, again in a wide range of circumstances. Working with upwards of one hundred students in any given year, and over thirty regular community partners, Magini takes student drive, their desire to work and gain real-world experience, and matches it with community partners and organizations that are looking for unique support. She manages social impact student employment, Federal Work-Study sponsored jobs and PKG internships at PKG, she onboards and engages with community partners in a wide range of fields all over the city, and she serves as a kind of bridge between MIT students and community partners.
“Sometimes the two parties don’t know each other very well,” Magini says, “so they look for something, but they’re not really intentional in their search.” Magini is here to apply intention to these bonds between student and partner, to ensure that each match is mutual, collaborative and fruitful for all parties involved. Most of all, she wants to ensure that MIT students don’t always have to make a choice between something they love and something they can afford. In pairing students with strong partnerships, and in connecting them to avenues of funding, Magini enables students to engage in community-facing work that might otherwise compromise financial status. And, in doing so, she enables community partners, and by extension a variety of communities, to benefit from the skills and expertise of the MIT community.
“In the beginning, it was just… oh my goodness!” Magini says of her role at MIT, an unfamiliar one, an overwhelming one. “But I think sometimes, at the time of change, I didn’t realize the opportunities I was getting.” Magini is grateful for all the changes in her life, from Italy, to Ireland, to Massachusetts; from career advising, to volunteer training, and now into her role at PKG. “I don’t regret any of the changes. I’ve met so many people that I would never have met, so many different settings and environments.”
Chiara is looking forward to the launch of a new platform, GivePulse, that will enable community partners to more easily and directly connect with MIT students, and vice versa!
Her go-to record is the David Bowie classic, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
“Probably my favorite ever, especially when I’m stressed. I love it. I try to teach the songs to my kids as well, because I think they’re just great!”