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.

Related Courses

SP.259 Pathways to Social Justice at MIT and Beyond

This course explores student pathways to support social change and social justice efforts within the greater Boston region and how students can be agents of change throughout their lives. Students are introduced to ethical, reciprocal, and community-informed approaches to creating social change through readings, lectures, class discussions, critical reflection, and direct service experiences with local community organizations. This course also aims to create a supportive community for undergraduate students to build a network of thoughtful MIT stakeholders dedicated to creating social good in the world. Subject offered by the PKG Public Service Center. Subject can count toward the 6-unit discovery-focused credit limit for 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.

2.78 [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

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 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 a 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