Vander Laan '97
Crafting Corporate Stories
To Build Reputations
Matthew Vander Laan '97 is
very sensitive to other people's opinions because his reputations are at
stake. Every one of them.
As a senior account supervisor
for Edelman Public Relations in Chicago, Vander Laan works in the reputation
management practice division. He helps companies project and preserve a
positive image in the eyes of their employees and their external constituents.
"Every company has a story,
and we help our clients articulate their stories," says Vander Laan, who
has worked with Michelin, UPS, USG Corporation, and Valvoline. "They may
be uncertain of their point of view, so sometimes we take a complex, unrefined
idea and present a concrete theme for our clients to promote to their stakeholders."
Vander Laan joined Edelman
in 1997 as an intern during his senior year and remained with the company
after graduating with a degree in communication arts and English. Growing
up in Dyer, Indiana, where he lives with his wife, Christine (Kostelyk
'97), and daughter, Faith, he envisioned a career in medicine. He found
the pre-med program at Trinity to be intellectually constraining and discovered
his affinity for communication and the arts.
"Everything in science and
math seemed to be measured in finite increments," he says, "and I was doing
well in my classes, but I wanted something more. Communication arts and
English piqued my interest, and I found myself gravitating to professors
(Annalee) Ward, (Dave) Klope, (Michael)Vander Weele, and (Dan) Diephouse.
They introduced me to a more critical kind of thinking, and that was better
'brain candy' for me."
Learning and exploring the
connections among history, philosophy, theology, the arts, and other academic
disciplines formed the foundation for much of what Vander Laan does professionally.
Besides teaching him how to transform culture, his years at Trinity showed
him that his lifestyle is no less valuable for witnessing than a Sunday
"I don't have to be an evangelist
at the workplace," he says. "By doing my job well, conducting myself in
the appropriate manner, and emphasizing honesty and integrity, people will
notice the godly principles that I believe in. I integrate my belief in
God into my daily walk of faith.
"That is the approach I
use at Edelman. My team recommends to our clients what they should say
and do to maintain their good reputations, and there's a certain way to
achieve that. I encourage them to be truthful, seek remedies for injustices,
and advocate for people who are less fortunate. I'm realistic enough to
know that their motive for doing those things is that they're good for
business, but I'm doing my part to be salt and light."
Word of a new facility for
the art and communication arts programs began to circulate on campus during
Vander Laan's two-year stint as editor-in-chief of The Courier, Trinity's
student newspaper. He knew then that the College had plans for the Art
and Communication Center and was fairly certain that he would not have
any classes in it. He contends that his courses were no less effective
because the students and faculty relied more on dialogue and interaction.
"If the facility had been
available while I was at Trinity, there may have been more emphasis on
mass media," he suggests. "The absence of that kind of space, equipment,
and resources probably led us to talk about things more conceptually. I
really benefited from the discussions that centered on how ideas and media
converge to impact society.
"Trinity is one of the best
liberal arts institutions in the Midwest," Vander Laan says. "Any college
can teach people how to do things, but few can teach people how to think.
Trinity is intentional about shaping Christian minds and employs an approach
that challenges students. Its success is a testament of the quality education
that students receive, and it's great to see the College advancing as it
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