Harvard FAS Office of Career Services


Justin Pasquariello, AB ‘01, MPA/MBA ‘10, executive director of Children’s HealthWatch at Boston Medical Center, met with undergraduates interested in the non-profit sector. We asked Justin how and where students can get started in the field.

Q: What advice do you have for Harvard seniors looking to break into nonprofit management?

As the executive director of Children’s HealthWatch, I am in a few different fields: the nonprofit world, the health care world, and the research world. I would recommend a somewhat different path for each.

I took the nonprofit path to get here. I volunteered extensively at Phillips Brooks House as an undergrad—and gained great experience through that work. I was the director of the Housing Opportunities Program for a semester and was a mentor throughout my undergraduate years (and beyond) through the South Boston Outreach program. Those two volunteer/leadership experiences gave me content and skill preparation to launch a nonprofit mentoring group after college. I also had great personal mentors at PBHA—including the dean at the time and other student nonprofit founders—both provided great advice.

I founded an organization, but was able to start it as a program within an existing organization (and that was an easier and better approach for those early years). I started with existing relationships at Harvard and met with many people (who suggested other people with whom I met); these meetings led me to the support I needed to start my organization.

For work in the sector outside of founding a nonprofit, I definitely would recommend starting by volunteering. There are many great opportunities at Harvard. After graduation, AmeriCorps programs including the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship, VISTA, Teach For America, and others provide great resume-building experience and an opportunity to make a significant difference.

To work in a management role in a health care setting, working with a group like Health Leads as an undergraduate would be helpful. Having an MBA, MPH, or other management/health degree also would position one well for working in health care.

To work in a research setting, I would recommend taking statistics classes and building as much research experience as possible as an undergraduate. I think for research, one might need to be open to volunteering as well.

Q: What are some great locations where students can start in your field?

Boston, NYC, DC, and San Francisco have high concentrations of nonprofit organizations. There are many innovative models in these cities. These cities also are among the most popular destinations for recent Harvard grads. On the other hand, they are cities with high costs of living—and other US cities are much less well-served by the nonprofit sector. While there are significant needs in the aforementioned places, by a variety of measures there are even greater needs in places including the Mississippi Delta, Detroit, and many smaller industrial cities in the Northeast and Midwest.