September 22, 2022 at 1:45pm
Kendall Trump, Class of 2013

Business with a purpose: Amber Kaylor '06 MBA '16

As a Decatur native, Amber Kaylor grew up with Millikin University as a background example of higher education. While she laughs when she says she chose Millikin to earn both her undergraduate and graduate degrees because of its proximity, Kaylor explains that Millikin’s presence was certainly influential beyond being close to home.

“When you’re born and raised in Decatur, you obviously know about Millikin. You live and breathe it because you drive past it and you know a lot of people who have graduated from Millikin. You get to hear and see success stories firsthand.”

Kaylor earned her B.S. in management and organizational leadership in 2006 from Millikin and her Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 2016. She has spent the majority of her career in the nonprofit sector, previously serving as CEO of the Children’s Museum of Illinois, director of development for United Way of Decatur & Mid-Illinois and in the Office of Admission at Millikin University. Currently, Kaylor is the CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois. She says her passion is in the not-for-profit sector.

“I love running a business, but moreso, I love running a business with a purpose,” Kaylor said.

She focuses her work toward having an impact on people and serving in any role where she’s needed, whether checking in families at the front desk or leading budget meetings.

Kaylor’s determination to further her impact on people and the community inspired her to further her career. “I had been wanting to get my MBA as my career advanced and it was time for that to happen.” Kaylor enrolled in Millikin’s MBA program during a period of leave from work after her son was born so that she could continue advancing herself and her career.

As she did for her undergraduate degree, Kaylor looked to Millikin University to further her education.

“It was not only Millikin’s proximity and seeing the success, but being part of that success,” she remarked. 

While Kaylor had certainly accomplished a great deal in her career prior to pursuing her master’s degree, she recognized that Millikin’s MBA program would enable her to grow her impact and help people more effectively. “There are gaps in your skill set that you don’t even realize exist,” Kaylor said, describing how the MBA program played a huge part in filling those gaps and showing her where she needed to grow. 

“I am not a finance person, but the program really showed me that finance was something that I would really have to dig into to move to that next level. Now, finance is a huge piece of what I do and I have a really firm understanding, in large part because of the MBA program.”

Along with the lessons in finance, Kaylor said that she also leans on the leadership lessons she learned and the benefits of the community aspect present in the program. “Relationships are definitely the most valuable part. Nobody gets through it alone,” Kaylor commented on the cohort learning model. 

“You’re going to build relationships. You’re going to lean on each other. You need the people around you in your classes.” Students enrolled in both Millikin’s Daytime and Evening MBA programs typically come from diverse professional backgrounds, from engineering to real estate and much more, offering a pool of different strengths and perspectives.

“You’re not ever alone in the program. You’ll always have someone to walk you through what you’re struggling with and you’re never going to have something you can’t overcome.”

Amber Kaylor '06 MBA '16

Kaylor credited her professors, classmates and Millikin’s MBA support staff with helping her succeed under challenging circumstances. As a new mom to a four-month-old son, Kaylor started the program determined to reach her goals. “It was the culmination of a dream for me. I was a new mom and said we are going to do it anyway. I had so many people cheering me on and supporting me.” 

The support surrounding her helped Kaylor overcome the challenges of being both a parent and a graduate student. “I pumped on breaks and I had professors who were supportive of that. If I needed to feed my son, or whatever the case may be, I had a whole community of people around me who understood where I was at in my journey and were so supportive of that.”

Following her experience, Kaylor said that she would recommend Millikin’s MBA program to all professionals looking to advance their careers. “Just do it. I waited 10 years and I always say that next year is going to pass whether you do it or not. There is no ideal time,” Kaylor commented. 

“I would highly recommend the MBA program. I had a wonderful experience and I’d do it all over again.”

For more information on Millikin’s Daytime and Evening MBA Programs, visit millikin.edu/mba