Gannon University Alumna Influences Documentary on History Channel

Posted: April 11, 2015


Meg VanderLaan loves a big story, so when the Gannon University graduate found one, she knew just what to do with it.

The result is "Panama Canal Supersized," a one-hour documentary airing at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 11 on the History Channel's "Modern Marvels" series.

The program details the $5.5 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, a project in which MWH Global, an engineering firm headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, is a leading participant.

As the firm's chief communications officer, VanderLaan, got a first-hand look at the enormous project, which includes the installation of new locks that will permit ships to carry three times the volume of cargo carried today.

Through her career, she had also developed relationships with filmmakers and broadcast producers, a role familiar to her since her days in the radio and television studios at Gannon in the late 1980s.

"This project was made for television and I new I had to find a way to bring this story to the widest number of people," VanderLaan said.

Through relationships she had established with the Panama Canal Authority's publicity team, a former NBC News executive and a pair of Los Angeles filmmakers, VanderLaan brought the program into being.

The results are striking, and include a tour through underground channels in the locks while water rushes in, pouring concrete into a form that is ten stories high, and the fabrication of the immense gates for the new locks, as well as interviews with the MWH engineers who designed this gargantuan project.

To VanderLaan, the making of the documentary was itself a large project, but also a labor of love VanderLaan credits the production team at Radiant Features with their ability to bring this story to life.. "Stories are what link us together as humans," she said, and the Panama Canal project is a very big story indeed. 


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