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Alison Badgett named director of the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center

With decades of experience in the nonprofit sector, she will lead the center as MIT boosts social impact experiential learning opportunities.
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Alison Badgett headshot
“I’m excited to help the PKG Center, and broader MIT community, develop a collective vision for public service education that builds on the PKG Center’s strength in social innovation programming, and leverages the Institute’s unique culture of innovation,” Alison Badgett says.
Photo courtesy of Alison Badgett

Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education Ian A. Waitz announced recently that Alison Badgett has been appointed the new associate dean and director of the Priscilla King Gray (PKG) Public Service Center. She succeeds Jill Bassett, who left that role to become chief of staff to Chancellor Melissa Nobles.

“Alison is a thought leader on how to integrate community-engaged learning with systematic change, making her ideally suited to actualize MIT’s mission of educating transformative leaders,” Waitz says. “I have no doubt she will make the PKG Center a model for all of higher ed, given her wealth of experience, finely honed skills, and commitment to social change.”

“I’m excited to help the PKG Center, and broader MIT community, develop a collective vision for public service education that builds on the PKG Center’s strength in social innovation programming, and leverages the Institute’s unique culture of innovation,” Badgett says. “MIT’s institutional commitment to tackling complex societal and environmental challenges, taking responsibility for outcomes and not just inputs, is exceedingly rare. I’m also especially excited to engage STEM majors, who may be less likely to enter the nonprofit or public sector, but who can have a tremendous impact on social and environmental outcomes within the systems they work.”

Badgett has over 20 years of experience leading public policy and nonprofit organizations, particularly those addressing challenging issues like affordable housing and homelessness, criminal justice, and public education. She is the founding principal of a consulting firm, From Charity to Change, which works with nonprofit leaders, educators, and philanthropists to apply systems-change strategies that target the root causes of complex social problems.

Prior to her consulting role, Badgett was executive director of the Petey Greene Program, which recruits and trains 1,000 volunteers annually from 30 universities to tutor justice-impacted students in 50 prisons and reentry programs. In addition, the program educates volunteers on the injustice of our prison system and encourages both volunteers and students to advocate for reforms.

She also served as executive director of Raise Your Hand Texas, an organization that aims to improve education by piloting innovative learning practices. During her tenure, the organization launched a five-year, $10 million initiative to showcase and scale blended learning, and a 10-year, $50 million initiative to improve teacher preparation and the status of teaching.

Before leading Raise Your Hand Texas, Badgett was executive director of several organizations related to housing and homelessness in New York and New Jersey. During that time, she developed a $3.6 million demonstration program to permanently house the chronically homeless, which served as a model for state and national replication. She also served as senior policy advisor to the governor of New Jersey, providing counsel on land use, redevelopment, and housing. 

Badgett holds a global executive EdD from the University of Southern California, an MA from Columbia University Teachers College in philosophy and education, and an BA in politics from Princeton University. 

Her appointment at the PKG Center is especially timely. Student demand for social impact experiential learning opportunities has increased significantly at MIT in recent years, and the center is expected to play a sizable role in increasing student engagement in social impact work and in helping to integrate social innovation into teaching and research.

At the same time, the Institute has made a commitment to help address complex issues with global impacts, such as climate change, economic inequality, and artificial intelligence. As part of that effort, the Office of Experiential Learning launched the Social Impact Experiential Learning Opportunity initiative last year, which has awarded nearly $1 million to fund hundreds of student opportunities. Projects cater to a broad range of interests and take place around the world — from using new computational methods to understand the role of special-interest-group funding in U.S. public policy to designing and testing a solar-powered, water-vapor condensing chamber in Madagascar.

Badgett, who is currently writing a book on re-imagining civic education at elite private schools, will begin her new role at the PKG Center in July. In the meantime, she is looking forward to bringing her experience to bear at MIT. “While leading public interest organizations was highly rewarding, I recognized that I could have a far greater impact educating future public interest leaders, and that higher education was the place to do it,” she says.

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