Our History

From its founding in 1861 to today, MIT’s mission has been to develop in each member of its community the ability to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

Students come to MIT to expand their skills and deepen their knowledge with the goal of changing the world, and the PKG Center helps students harness their unique abilities to advance social good.

Priscilla King Gray and Shirley McBay

Service work has always happened at MIT—in fraternities, sororities, living groups, and through various campus clubs. In 1988, trailblazing mathematician and dean of student affairs Shirley McBay, Professor Robert Mann ‘50, and our Center’s namesake, Priscilla King Gray, recognized that MIT needed a central resource to support and expand such efforts. Together, they created the MIT Public Service Center, one of the first established in the U.S. This office, recently renamed as the PKG Center, is committed to facilitating independent, student-driven initiatives with a strong infrastructure of advising and support.

Since our founding, much has changed: MIT has evolved and grown exponentially as a global leader in science and engineering, and the practice of public service in higher education has evolved as well. Today, almost every college and university has a center dedicated to helping students participate in service. And 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. The PKG Center is constantly examining our programs to provide a better learning experience for our students and more impact for our community partners. In 2018, the PKG Center released a new strategic plan that will guide the Center forward as we sustain, scale, and seed programs that provide rigorous, academically aligned public service opportunities for MIT students.