Laureen Cassidy’s career at Baxter International Inc. as Vice President of Corporate Communications started with the ‘life decision” to come to Loyola University Chicago.
“A lot of my job is making sure that we have the right composition of teams to work on big ideas or executing large programs,” Cassidy said, “and drawing from a really wonderful and talented group of people to accomplish our business goal.”
The Chicago-native came to Loyola as a nursing major. Cassidy explains that at the time, college-educated women were either nurses or teachers. Her older sister, also a nursing major at Loyola, was finishing up her practicum work when Cassidy entered college in January of 1985. While she loved the sciences, the practical aspects of patient care were not a fit.
“I took a speech class when I was a freshman at Loyola and I really liked it,” Cassidy said. “I actually realized you could major in communications. I knew the liberal arts education was a good way to go. It gave me a lot of different options.”
Cassidy decided to change majors during her first semester at Loyola.
Her ties to Loyola remain strong; Cassidy is currently in the Women’s Leadership Council in Loyola’s School of Business and the Dean’s Advisory Council in the School of Communication.
“She is honest and kind,” said Kathleen Getz, Dean at Loyola’s School of Business. “She’s smart- ‘book smart’ and ‘people smart.’ She is an excellent communicator and she knows how to build a strong network.”
In fact, in September 2013, Dean Getz asked Cassidy to deliver a keynote speech at the School of Business career week. She told current students:
“Life’s decisions – and I purposely choose the word life decisions and not career decisions – are a series of choices. The journey that will define your life and your career are uniquely yours.
“So, I have four ideas to explore with you today. First, chart your own path and set your own definition for what success is. The second is: be good at what you do. Third, lift others up and be good to those around you. And last, your connection to Loyola is a lifelong gift.”
Cassidy is the daughter of long-time Chicagoans. At an early age, her family relocated from the city to Arlington Heights. As a first-generation college student, her parents always stressed the importance of education.
Cassidy was drawn by Loyola’s smaller university setting and urban environment.
“I really appreciated having more of a personal relationship with my professor,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy was a commuter student but still found time to write newsletters for the International Association of Business Communicators.
“It was back in the day where producing a newsletter was a lot of effort and work versus just doing it on a desktop,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy received her Bachelor of Arts in communications in 1989.
Cassidy accepted a position at Nicor Gas in the corporate communications department where she edited the employee publication. It was during this time that she saw the benefits of communications in businesses. Cassidy left her position in 1991 after two years with the company.
Cassidy went back to Loyola; in 1996 she received her Master’s in Business Administration focusing in marketing.
“Having the credential of an MBA as a communicator, I could look at things through their lens but still make a compelling argument as to why doing certain things as a communicator would matter,” Cassidy said.
In the late 1990s, Cassidy worked as head of international communications at Abbott Laboratories, where she spent more than 18 years. She found herself in a diverse atmosphere where there was little knowledge on the powerful tool communication had in business. She also recalls this experience in her keynote speech:
“This born-and-raised Chicago girl -who had the equivalent of three weeks of international travel experience and no international business experience -had to interview with three high-ranking global leaders who travelled frequently. I suspected they were indifferent to the addition of the new communications role because for them a job in a function at headquarters was a job they couldn’t fill in a market to generate sales growth. So prior to my interviews, I developed a one-year plan, outlining what I would take on and accomplish in the first year.”
Cassidy was hired as the first international communicator at Abbott.
“I found myself in places like Rome, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro and that sort of exposure to art, science and literature and more of a work knowledge was very helpful,” Cassidy said. “Classes like art history and literature really helped me navigate sort of a global business environment.”
Cassidy is grateful for her rich and rewarding experiences and looks for ways to give back.
“Figuring out ways to give back in a way that is meaningful and what is right for me has really been the focus of the last segment of my career.”
By: Anel Herrera