Sara Lane’s diverse professional experiences have led her all over the world. Now as coordinator of career services for NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), Lane ‘01 has come full circle, and her nonlinear career path also benefits the students with whom she interacts each day.
Looking back on her undergraduate years at NC State, Lane believes the Park Scholarships program instilled in her a drive to serve and influenced her to think critically about her own community.
“For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by students who were as driven as me, and who worked as hard or harder,” said Lane. “We had so many amazing individuals in the Park Scholars program that it gave me the inspiration to step up my game and dream big.”
Originally from rural Caswell County, N.C., Lane began her college career with a major in agricultural business management. To cultivate her interest in communication, she later added a second major in extension education. This proved valuable as Lane continued on to receive her master’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia, while working her way from local news to ABC News and eventually to CNN. She believes her agricultural background played a role in her success as it allowed her to bring a diverse perspective to the newsroom.
After nine years in journalism Lane decided she was ready for her next adventure. Following her interest in international development and a desire to live abroad, she joined the Peace Corps as a community-based natural resource management volunteer. Here, too, she put her undergraduate studies to good use as she helped Malawians launch businesses—most of which were agriculturally-oriented—and educated them on business concepts and practices.
When Lane’s service with the Peace Corps came to a close, she acknowledged that she no longer desired a career in international development. She sought advice regarding her next professional steps from Marcy Bullock, former director of career services for CALS, with whom she’d maintained a relationship since her college days.
“One aspect of my undergraduate experience that stood out was the genuine devotion of NC State faculty and staff to student success,” Lane said. “I was in frequent contact with my advisors and others as I navigated my academic career. They truly took the time to get to know me and my goals, and provided guidance and assistance to help me achieve those goals. While it helped that I was a Park Scholar, I think this kind of devotion is available to all students at NC State if they choose to engage.”
Bullock, who is now director of professional development for NC State’s Career Development Center, recognized Lane’s penchant for this kind of relationship-building. She suggested that Lane attend a conference for North Carolina-based career services personnel. Lane did, and shortly thereafter became a career advisor at Wake Forest University.
“While I didn’t have the typical master’s in counseling or higher education that career counselors usually need, my new boss was impressed by the diversity of my experience and the great work I did in each of my positions,” Lane explained. “What I tell students now is that as long as you perform well at whatever you’re doing in your career, you will likely have the opportunity to try new paths later on.”
Today, Lane utilizes every aspect of her eclectic background to assist NC State students in reaching their full potential. Having studied within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Lane shares common ground with her students. She draws upon her communication and journalism skills when editing resumes, managing projects, and interfacing with both students and employers. Her Peace Corps service honed her nimbleness, allowing her to think on her feet and find smart solutions for her students.
Lane has enjoyed returning to her alma mater.
“Coming back to NC State and CALS truly feels like coming home,” she said. “I loved my experience here and feel fortunate to be able to assist students who are going through what I’ve been through in the past. It’s exciting to encourage students to explore new opportunities and move outside their comfort zones.”
Among Lane’s favorite projects throughout her career are covering Hurricane Katrina for CNN, overseeing the planning and execution of the Malawian celebrations for the Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary, and most recently, collaborating with three other colleges at NC State to host the STEAM² Career Expo.
“Through each of these, I felt I was able to provide exceptional value to those I was serving,” said Lane. “That’s what makes me feel fulfilled in my career.”
Story by Caroline Taney