Public Interest Technology University Network spotlights the PKG Center

The PKG Center’s Social Impact Internships program was recently featured by the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT UN) as a 2020 Network Challenge grantee. Read the original post here.

Few things are more important to building the public interest tech career pipeline than strong support for internships. On-the-job learning gives students the chance to put their skills to work solving real-world challenges, creates opportunities for long-term employment in PIT, and gives students a window into public sector roles that they may not have otherwise. Whether PIT interns go on to a career in public service or not, an early experience in PIT can inform their work in other contexts and make them better stewards of the public good wherever their career takes them.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center (PKG) is the university’s center dedicated to connecting students to opportunities in public service—through coursework, fellowships, alt break, and more, as well as internships and employment. PKG’s Social Impact Internships & Employment program, which links MIT students to social impact internships with partnered organizations in the community, is a 2020 Network Challenge grantee.

The program focuses on opportunities across three core areas: health, climate change, and tech for social good, while supporting an overall theme of racial justice. And it has a track record of providing meaningful experiences—for the recent Fall + January internship period, 100% of students said they gained knowledge or skills that will help their careers, and 100% of partnered organizations indicated an interest in hosting more MIT interns.

PKG team members, including director Jill Bassett, assistant dean Alison Hynd, communications manager Halley Kamerkar, and program administrator Julie Uva, told PIT UNiverse that MIT students pursue social impact internships for a range of reasons, but many are still not looking for careers in public service due to low wages and a “perceived prestige differential.”

“We certainly have a subsection of students that are very passionate about public service,” they said, “but more often, we hear students say they are looking for opportunities to take the skills they are learning in the classroom and apply them to real-world problems. Many are interested in the concept of using their skills for social good, but aren’t sure what that looks like yet.”

By providing students with the chance to work on real-world problems and explore public interest work, the PKG team says they hope to expand students’ understanding of public service and get them interested in social or environmental issues regardless of where they end up beyond MIT.

Tags: PIT UN, Social Impact Internships

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