Experiential Learning Track

Public Service + Social Impact

Quirky illustration of hands coming out of tubes

Use your skills to make a difference on issues that you care about. Work with non-profits, government agencies, social enterprises, or global NGOs to tackle critical, complex challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and racial justice.

At MIT, public service takes the form of internships, collaborative projects, research opportunities, peer engagement, and more! Leverage the skills you’re developing in the classroom and work alongside fellow students, MIT faculty and staff, nonprofit leaders, and government officials who are tackling these challenges on the front lines. Support community-identified needs, or work collaboratively to implement an innovative practice of your own design.

Find Your ELO

Visit Handshake and search using the “elo public service & social impact” label to find virtual opportunities that fit your interests, skills, and schedule.

Related Courses

SP.250 Transforming Good Intentions into Good Outcomes

Explores hard choices, ethical dilemmas, and the risk of failure in the humanitarian, tech, climate change, and health sectors. Students examine case studies based on challenges faced by MIT alums, faculty, staff, students or community practitioners, and engage in simulations and facilitated discussions. Subject can count toward the 9-unit discovery-focused credit limit for first-year students. Limited to 20; preference to first-year students.

EC.720[J] D-Lab: Design

Addresses problems faced by underserved communities and developing countries with a focus on design, experimentation, and prototyping processes. Multidisciplinary teams work on long-term projects in collaboration with community partners, field practitioners, and experts in relevant fields. Topics covered include design for affordability, manufacture, sustainability, and strategies for working effectively with community partners and customers. Students may continue projects begun in EC.701. Enrollment limited by lottery; must attend first class session.

EC.750 Humanitarian Innovation: Design for Relief, Rebuilding, and Recovery

Explores the role innovation can and does play in how humanitarian aid is provided, and how it can impact people, products, and processes. Provides a fundamental background in the history and practice of humanitarian aid. Case studies and projects examine protracted displacement as well as recovery and resettlement, including efforts in Colombia, Lebanon, Nepal, Sudan, and Uganda. Potential for students to travel over the summer to partner communities.

SP.251 How to Change the World: Experiences from Social Entrepreneurs

Every week, students meet individual entrepreneurs, get immersed in the ecosystem that supports them, and visit MIT labs and startups in the Cambridge innovation community. Each session covers an aspect of social entrepreneurship, from identifying opportunities for change to market fit to planning for scale. Subject can count toward the 9-unit discovery-focused credit limit for first year-students. Limited to 25; preference to first-year students.

2.S19/6.S080/15.S19 Hacking the Future: The Fall of COVID

New, cross-disciplinary, project-based class open to all MIT students. The Fall 2020 semester will focus on addressing the challenges of COVID-19, including its associated social disruption. Students will work in teams and draw from management, policy, and engineering perspectives to identify and develop a solution to a COVID-19 problem or issue about which they feel passionate. Funded ELOs in support of the course will also be available.

2.78 [J] Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology

Students work closely with people with disabilities to develop assistive and adaptive technologies that help them live more independently. Covers design methods and problem-solving strategies; human factors; human-machine interfaces; community perspectives; social and ethical aspects; and assistive technology for motor, cognitive, perceptual, and age-related impairments. Enrollment may be limited.

15.234[J] Scalable Civic Action

Project-based subject in which students deploy research-based civic, political and organizational engagement tools and analyze their impact and effectiveness. Addresses topics such as randomized controlled testing methods, political campaign techniques, behavioral optimization, and assessment metrics. Students form teams and perform real-world interventions using systems under development in the Media Lab. Open to undergraduates with permission of the instructor.

Upcoming Events

First-Year Community Engagement Series #1: Community-Engaged Work and Methods of Social Change

Join the PKG Center for a weekly series with other first- year students that want to make the world a better place! We’ll meet for 7 sessions during the fall semester and talk about a myriad of important social justice topics. Have fun participating in activities with other first year students, make new friends, and learn about ways you can participate in social change at MIT and beyond! We’ll talk about different methods of social change, share actionable resources, and connect you to other MIT students and offices engaged in social change at MIT! Join us for as many sessions as you’d like to attend, 1 or all 7!

Click here to register.

Maximizing Remote Supervision

Join the PKG Center as we share strategies to get the most out of remote supervision. Whether you are a supervisor or a student intern, we’ll share strategies and tools to help you communicate effectively with your supervisor/supervisee and brainstorm how to set your collaboration up for success. This is open to folks doing social impact work and beyond! Fill out the registration form to receive the Zoom information.

Click here to register.

First-Year Community Engagement Series #2: Civic/Political Engagement

Join the PKG Center for a weekly series with other first- year students that want to make the world a better place! We’ll meet for 7 sessions during the fall semester and talk about a myriad of important social justice topics. Have fun participating in activities with other first year students, make new friends, and learn about ways you can participate in social change at MIT and beyond! We’ll talk about different methods of social change, share actionable resources, and connect you to other MIT students and offices engaged in social change at MIT! Join us for as many sessions as you’d like to attend, 1 or all 7!

Click here to register.

Practitioners in Remote Residence 

Have “virtual dinner”– on us!– with alumni working in a variety of public service arenas (nonprofit board membership, community advocacy, government employment, changemaking within industry). Themes range from health to climate change to tech for good. UberEats cards provided. Co-sponsored by MIT’s Alumni Association and the PKG Center.

Register to Vote!

The 2020 General Election will take place on November 3rd, 2020! MA voting registration forms are due October 24. Deadlines for other states vary. Register and learn about deadlines on the MITVote website!

Student Profiles

Data, no matter how niche or scattered, serve as puzzle pieces in understanding the world.

Suki Zhang ’22 interned for MassHealth and helped create additional COVID-19 testing sites in Massachusetts. Read more

One of the most interesting parts is understanding how each region takes into account their society’s culture to form government responses that will best accommodate people’s lifestyles.

Julian Zulueta ’23 interned for the CDC Foundation, where he contributed to addressing COVID-19 health equity issues across the U.S. Read more

[This work has] deepened my understanding of the role of public health policy and the impact of public health practice at the federal and jurisdictional levels.

Ayesha Ng ’21, interned for the CDC Foundation this summer and helped identify health equity issues across the U.S. Read more

Sustainable social change cannot be accomplished through black screens on Instagram or PR statements posted on Twitter. It will happen when corporate America starts putting its money where its mouth is.

Abiola Familusi ’23, spent the summer interning for Tablecloth, creating a tool that can measure diversity, equity, and inclusion in a workplace. Read more

This problem stood out to me because I have a younger brother entering high school and I’ve had to help him with a lot of the confusion and problems he’s faced due to this rough transition.

Nicholas Dyette ’23 interned for the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, where he assisted public schools with the transition to remote learning. Read more