PKG Center Alumni: Where are they now?

In November 2021, the PKG Center invited three recent alumnae, Eleane Lema ‘21 (Course V-7), Ivana Alardin ‘21 (Course VI), and Flora Klise ‘21 (Course II), to share about their experiences participating in PKG programs, how these programs impacted them, and the influence these experiences had on their career paths. Watch their full presentations here!

The three former PKG Center students identified several shared themes around their experiences, including opportunities to explore different career paths which helped them decide which job to take upon graduating; building professional development and leadership skills; understanding identity development; and last but not least, finding a welcoming and caring space at the PKG Center office where staff provided encouragement and mentorship.

Career Exploration

Ivana, after participating in the inaugural trip to Navajo Nation with the PKG Center, received funding from PKG Fellowships to pursue an opportunity in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She shared that “this was always something that I wanted to [do],” to explore what it would look like to work in tech but in a non-profit, instead of a tech company. Ivana now works for Flatiron Health, a company that develops technology to optimize and improve the care of cancer patients. She notes that the PKG Center’s focus on using tech for good led her to pursue a job where her software skills would benefit people in a meaningful way.

Eleane shared that “through PKG, I’ve gotten a lot of exposure to career fields that I feel like I would not have been exposed to if I didn’t participate in the program. And I absolutely fell in love with public health and I got exposed to that through the IAP Health internship program with [Boston Medical Center].” Her experiences in PKG programs focused on health equity helped Eleane realize her passion and incorporate it into her career path. She is now a Health Associate at Mathematica and planning to pursue a Master’s in Public Health or a Master’s in Public Policy. 

For Flora, the opportunity to travel to Tanzania through a PKG Fellowship helped her discover a passion for addressing climate challenges in the form of water access and conservation, ultimately leading her to her current job at Xylem Water Solutions & Water Technology. She shared that her career path really evolved through her PKG Fellowship, “I started MIT thinking I wanted [to work on] biomedical devices. I was really interested in health care 一 it was something I thought I could make the world a better place by participating in 一 and this opportunity to go to Tanzania really opened my eyes to some other opportunities that I thought I might be interested in, and ultimately pushing me toward the world of water, which I’m now completely 150% involved in and excited about.“

Professional Development and Leadership Skills

All three former students noted that the PKG Center offered them opportunities to hone their professional development skills and pursue leadership roles within these experiences. 

After Eleane participated in PKG Spring Break, she returned to the program as a student leader in subsequent years. She also served as a PKG Ambassador and helped train other students. She emphasized that learning how to analyze complex social issues is one of the biggest takeaways from her time with the PKG Center, “I think that encompasses both soft and hard skills, which is something that I think PKG really does a great job with, showing that MIT students can use their STEM and technical skills [with their interpersonal skills],” all while tackling meaningful social issues.

Flora shared that after her first year at MIT, PKG staff member Sarah Bouchard encouraged her to apply for a leadership role within the Active Community Engagement (ACE) program. “Just that opportunity to be encouraged to apply,” she shared, “to be selected to be a counselor and then have the opportunity to actually step into the leadership shoes and really execute such a well-organized program and be part of such a cohesive team was something that really helped me as I went along at MIT.” She also noted the PKG Center’s focus on leadership skills that emphasize empathy and empowerment was impactful for her. 

Identity Development

When it comes to identity development, Flora shared that “Before I went to MIT, my identity was not something I really thought about in a complex way, and the PKG Center staff and my peers have really helped push me outside my comfort zone to get to know myself better, and also understand how to get to know others in a more open-minded and just more loving way.” The PKG Center hosts workshops on identity, power, privilege and positionality, and every PKG program asks students to reflect on these topics, especially as they relate to the community they are engaging and collaborating with through the program. 

Ivana added that these conversations around identity were formative for her, saying that “a lot of the things I had to do, as well as part of being in these programs, is to write reflections, talk about things, a lot of group sessions, which I probably wouldn’t have had devoted as much time to reflect on as I would have otherwise.” Eleane shared that these discussions and reflections allowed her to ask difficult questions and have uncomfortable conversations around social issues and inequality when working with communities in Camden, New Jersey. She stated that, “especially with service work, I think it’s very important to know who you are and what your identity is before you’re even going into a new space where you’re trying to interact with other people.”

Welcoming Space

Finally, all three alumnae agreed that the PKG Center office was an important and meaningful landing pad for them throughout their time at MIT. They knew they could always stop by and grab a snack, talk to a staff member to get advice, and overall feel welcomed and cared for in that space. In Flora’s words, “I really spent a lot of time in the PKG Center office, even if I wasn’t in a program, I really relied on that team as a support system at MIT, which is really important when you’re trying to get through some really hard times. So I really appreciate not only the moral support, but the mentorship, the guidance, the encouragement, and just sometimes a smiling face that’s happy to see me.”

The PKG Center strives to be a warm and welcoming space for students, and staff are always appreciative of visits from students. If you’re interested in chatting with a staff member, you can check out our office hours here

To learn more about PKG Center programs, click here. To read more student experiences, browse through our blog posts of student reflections and interviews from across all of our programs. 

Tags: Climate Change, Health, Health & Medicine, PKG Alumni, Tech for Good

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