‘Capitol Connection’ – An Intern’s View

April 24, 2013

This week, I asked my legislative intern to write a column. Please see his commentary below:

Welcome constituents of the 8th Senate District! My name is Jason Langeway and I am currently Senator Witkos’ intern. While Senator Witkos is on vacation, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to share with you everything that I am working on, how my experience as an intern has been, and why exactly I became an intern. Basically, my belief in social capital is what drove me to do this internship. I want to share simply what social capital is and its importance on society as a whole.

I strongly believe in the importance of social capital and the impact it has on society. I thought this opportunity as an intern for Senator Witkos would provide me with the networking needed to increase my social capital. A lot of people do not actually know how to define social capital or why it is important. Social capital refers to the connections amongst individuals and the social networks and norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. Basically, social capital includes the gains from which individuals receive by creating connections with others.

There are a multitude of connections available to interns at the Legislative Office Building and Capitol. Simply having a Senator or Representative there to offer support and advice has been an advantageous part of my experience. Through this internship, I have met with many individuals including other students, Senators and Representatives, executives of companies and resource networks, staff members at the Capitol, and constituents. I have been able to build relationships with some of these individuals that I can place into my network who could possibly help me in the future and increase my social capital.

So why exactly is social capital important? By having these connections with other people, or a high level of social capital, more opportunities are available to an individual than say someone with a low degree of social capital. Studies have shown that high social capital has led to higher rates of economic growth, higher educational achievement, enhanced child development, lower crime rates, higher employment levels combined with increased job stability, and improved government and public governance. Let me offer a brief example.

When someone needs to look something up, the phrase “Google it” becomes the go to. Google is one of the top search engines in the world. No one uses the phrase “Yahoo it” and I will tell you why. Yahoo used to have all their employees work from home to manage their search engine. Google on the other hand, made their employees come into work. By making employees come into work, they have established a workplace full of camaraderie and high social capital. So much so that Yahoo has recently begun to make its employees come into work.

Unfortunately, evidence suggests that individuals entering into relationships or connections with others has been dwindling over the past quarter century. Public perception of generalized trust and honesty has dropped. Also, civic engagement in political and religious activities is becoming less common. This is a problem to the overall development of society and that is why I continue to increase and promote social capital as much as possible. This internship thus far has been increasing my social capital immensely and I am grateful for that. I have been able to establish connections with others that I would not be able to find anywhere else. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I knew I could not give up.

Next week, I will focus more on exactly what I am doing as an intern, what my tasks include and information on the event that I am planning in May that I hope many of you can attend. Exciting things are happening and it is a great session to be an intern. If you would like to know any more information about social capital, the internship, or myself please feel free to contact me at [email protected].