SMU alumnus Jonathan “Jonás” Lane ’09 calls his three years in the Peace Corps “an internship in life itself.”
Lane, who graduated from the Cox School of Business with a degree in finance, serves as a volunteer leader for community economic development in San José, Costa Rica. He says the Peace Corps may not be for everyone, but in his experience, it definitely lives up to its reputation as “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”
“If you are prepared for a challenge that is as personal as it is professional, and as globally meaningful as it is personally enriching, then brace yourself,” he says. “This is as real as it gets, in the best possible way, and I am assuredly all the better for it.”
His role in the Peace Corp’s central office in the capital city encompasses training, technical support, project strategy development and a multitude of other services for volunteers in the field.
In the previous two years, while fulfilling his regular term of service, Lane put his business and finance background to work as an economic development facilitator in a community of 4,800 people located almost two hours south of San José.
“I worked primarily on three tiers of economic development: first, preparing a qualified labor force and teaching skills to improve employability; second, stimulating entrepreneurship and better business practices; and finally, fomenting the development of and offering organizational consulting to economic associations and institutions, as well as national enterprise networking opportunities.”
Under his guidance, the community formed a Chamber of Commerce and Tourism; created a community-owned and -operated Community Credit Union and a rural tourism cooperative; and organized a National Rural Tourism Symposium that included some 11 communities from across Costa Rica. He also served as an organizational and commercial development consultant for a women’s artisan group.
When his initial Peace Corps stint ended in December 2012, Lane signed up for an extra year, which has been extended to June 2014. “To be honest, I couldn’t be happier,” he says.
Lane’s path to service in Central America started at SMU.
While an undergraduate, he was a man for all seasons: a President’s Scholar, manager of the men’s swimming and diving team, Student Senate Chief of Staff, a member of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity and a Hilltop Ambassador and campus tour guide, to name just a few of his affiliations and activities.
He spent the summer of 2007 at SMU-in-Oxford followed by a semester of study with SMU-in-Spain and a semester with SMU-in-Australia, opportunities that had a game-changing impact on his future. He credits a host of SMU staff and faculty supporters with helping him find the ideal intersection of his desire to use his academic foundation in a consequential way with living abroad and two mentors, in particular, for steering him toward the Peace Corps.
“When I was considering post-graduation options, Dr. Tom Tunks [professor of music], who was an assistant provost and director of the President’s Scholars at the time, told me a great deal about his experience serving in the Peace Corps with his wife in Colombia in the 1960s,” he recalls. “And, Susan Kress [director of Engaged Learning], then the director of SMU Abroad, talked to me about her service as a volunteer in Malaysia.
“While they both helped me distill my vision for my future – professionally, personally, spiritually – it was their strength of character, their emotional maturity and their global perspective that truly convinced me that the path to international service in the Peace Corps was exactly what I needed to fill the hole left by my profound experiences of living and studying abroad.”
– Patricia Ward