Fall 2011 TRINITY Magazine, Chicago
Matthew Vander Laan ’97
Title: Executive vice president for corporate affairs
When Matthew Vander Laan ’97 was a senior at Trinity, he took an internship in Chicago at Edelman, a leading independent global public relations firm. “I was hired on full time before I even graduated, and that internship experience set the stage for the next 15 years of my life,” he said.
Today as Edelman’s executive vice president for corporate affairs, Vander Laan leads a team of 20 professionals who develop public relations campaigns for Fortune 500 clients.
Originally a pre-med major who excelled at science and planned to become a doctor, Vander Laan said that after taking courses in English, theology, philosophy, and art, he discovered that working with the “other side” of his brain was even more fun and interesting. “Professors Michael Vander Weele ’73, Dan Diephouse, Virginia La Grand, Annalee Ward, and others really helped me unlock my critical thinking and writing skills.”
Vander Laan eventually changed his major to English and worked as the editor of the Courier, Trinity’s student newspaper, and as a reporter for the Regional News in Palos Heights. These experiences proved beneficial to his future work. “It helped hone my sense for what people find interesting, engaging, and provocative,” he said. “Everyone wants to hear a good story, and I put that core idea to work for my clients every day.”
From the perspective of a professional working in Chicago, Vander Laan advises students to not only enjoy the cultural and entertainment options but to look at the city and its people through the eyes of what they’ve learned on Trinity’s campus.
“If we learn to see the world through the lens of God’s sovereignty, the centrality of Christ, and the hopelessness of sin, then we realize the city provides an intense display of both unimaginable beauty and utter brokenness. Such sharp juxtapositions force you to sharpen your observing, evaluating, and thinking skills in ways that more homogeneous surroundings just can’t,” said Vander Laan.
“Trinity, with its proximity to the city, is a great place to learn these habits of heart and mind.”