STEP Internship Reflection: Matt Bango

Name: Matthew Bango

Type of Project: Internship

The STEP funding allowed me to pursue my dream of interning on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  I participated in the John Glenn College of Public Affair’s Washington Academic Internship Program (WAIP) during the Spring 2018 Semester.  This experience proved to be a significantly transformative opportunity for me both personally and professionally.  The internship program was two-fold: we interned 36 hours a week and then we had policy salons and took 12 credits of academic requirements.  While completing WAIP, I interned for my local member of Congress, Marcy Kaptur.  It was a great privilege to work in the epicenter of our democracy every day and share the endless hallways of the Capitol’s campus with some of my career idols, including Congressman John Lewis and Senator Sherrod Brown.  The experience of working on Capitol Hill proved to be a pivotal time in my college career and I am so grateful that STEP helped to provide me with this opportunity.

My experience in Washington changed the way that I view members of the opposing political party.  Before coming to DC, I would typically associate negative connotations with people that identified as conservative.  While I still do see some extremely partisan individuals that way, I began to have a growing respect for members of the opposing party after I spent a few weeks interacting with their members and those member’s staff.  News outlets and social media tend to gravitate towards covering only the extremely partisan members of Congress, which are in the minority of the full body.  Even though my office was run by a Democrat, we would engage and partner with Republican offices on a daily basis.  While the members had fundamental disagreements on core issues, they would use a mutual area of interest to their advantage and knew that their bipartisan outcry would cause more attention to solving this problem.  This was an extremely important lesson because I will have to interact with supporters of other political identifications for the entirety of my career in the public sector.  It was a great experience to learn how to better handle these interactions and how to grow some empathy.  Almost everyone who devotes their life to public service deserves to be recognized for their dedication to making this country a better place to live.

My coworker’s led me to this revelation at an early point of my internship.  I came into the office with doubts in my mind about the rationality of working so intimately with members of the other party on many of our core issues.  For example, we worked with an extremely conservative office daily on issues pertaining to Lake Erie.  I was concerned about how their constant input may result in compromising what we think is for the best when it came to conserving the lake’s ecology.

While my coworkers acknowledged my feelings as valid and worth noting, they also explained that residents of the lake decided to vote in this member to make decisions on their behalf and that’s something our office has to respect because our district only covers 60% of the lake’s shoreline.  My coworkers challenged me to give that office the chance to succeed in my mind, which proved to be an impactful decision.

By the end of my semester, I had given that other office a chance to succeed and was pleasantly surprised.  While their member’s core values did not align with ours, they saw the same problems that we did and wanted to work together on preserving the lake.  The work that was done between our offices made me proud as both a constituent and as a member of the team.  This experience allowed me to view the opposing party as more negative and challenged me to look deeper at an office’s work that just at their political identification.

The experience to live and work in Washington, DC has changed my future career outlook in a major way.  Before this experience, I wasn’t sure if I could make it professionally in DC and doubted my abilities.  After spending four months there, I have no doubt that I can be a professional and create great change in the world.  I have learned what skills I excel in and what skills I still need to harness during my last year at Ohio State.  I am very grateful for this opportunity and will use my knowledge to achieve my newly developed professional aspirations.  The next step for me post-graduation is to move to DC and start working on Capitol Hill.

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