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2016 grad loving life, work in Costa Rica

September 13, 2018 In Lakeland University Blog
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Jess Luecke works in paradise.

Since June, Luecke, a 2016 Lakeland graduate, has been serving as chief financial officer for the Peace Lodge Hotel in Vara Blanca, Costa Rica, and The Springs Resort & Spa in Arenal, Costa Rica.

Peace Lodge is a boutique luxury mountain lodge located on the grounds of La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a local nature park, and is 20 minutes from the Poás Volcano. The Springs, located about two hours away, is a luxury resort perched one thousand feet above the Arenal Valley on a mountain ridge just miles north of an active volcano. Average daytime highs are in the 80s in the shade and nighttime lows average in the 70s.

Not a bad way to put her double major in accounting and business administration and a minor in Spanish to work. It’s OK to be a little jealous.

“My goal was to experience something different than my peers chasing careers at Big 4 accounting firms,” Luecke said.

This career opportunity came about very quickly and quite unexpectedly.

For the last two years, Luecke was working in a corporate finance position for Actuant Corporation in Milwaukee. She had taken a short leave of absence from December 2016 until March of 2017 to intern at Peace Lodge, and she paid a visit this past February. After returning home, she emailed the owner to thank him for the internship and the opportunity to return and reconnect with old coworkers/friends.

Luecke never thought a “Hey, let’s keep in touch” email would eventually become an offer to start a new role. But, she quickly packed her bags and moved to Costa Rica.

She resides primarily at Peace Lodge, which is her base of operations. She works about 12-15 days each month at The Springs.

Like any job in hospitality, she wears a lot of hats, and the days are long and demanding. But that’s nothing new for Luecke, a winner of Lakeland’s Clarence Koehler Campus Senior Award who was involved in numerous organizations and events during her time at Lakeland. Luecke was on the executive boards of the Student Foundation, the Accounting Club and the Pi Kappa Gamma sorority.

In her role in Costa Rica, she manages all accounting functions at both properties including signing off on accounts payable, managing all costs and constantly molding and advancing the tax planning activities. She works closely with the controller to manage the business side for the restaurants as well as with the operations manager at The Springs to run all social media and marketing for the properties.

During her first four months, she has been able to make positive financial decisions for Peace Lodge and The Springs using her business and accounting skills. The goals of many of her projects all stem from cutting costs and increasing revenues.

Luecke is also closely involved with the construction of a new property that will be called The Point located along the Pacific Ocean coast in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The target opening date is set to be in 2020. This property is located next to Playa Hermosa and will feature many adventurous activities such as snorkeling, deep sea fishing and jet skiing.

At the age of just 23, Luecke is one of few females in executive management, a real point of pride.

“People ask me ‘What’s your plan?’ I truly believe that for as long as I am continuously learning and am head over heels in love with my life, I think it is unfair to put a finish line on this experience," Luecke said.

Her Lakeland studies focused on accounting and business, but this experience has her learning about construction, hotel operations, a variety of finance functions and how to lead employees in a new culture and different language.

“My boss runs such a high-functioning, multifaceted operation and I feel so blessed to work under his leadership,” Luecke said. “I am grateful that I am able to practice all of my strengths while constantly improving weaknesses without feeling nervous or judged. If it weren't enough to feel wholeheartedly in love with my job, my Costa Rican coworkers are hands down the biggest motivation and sweetest people I've ever met.”

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