News from the Aurora University community

The boons and benefits of an AU MBA

Posted by on October 1, 2018

Jackie Speciale

As a Red Cross volunteer, Jackie Speciale (left) helps victims of a condominium fire.
Photo courtesy of Journal & Topics Media Group

When Jackie Speciale first joined her family’s manufacturing business, she had a background in horticulture — which means she had a lot to learn in her new role as senior manager of purchasing, finance and human resources.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Columbia College and then a Master of Business Administration at Aurora University’s Woodstock Center. The factors that influenced her decision about AU were not just professional but also personal.

“Aside from academic knowledge, I chose to pursue an MBA with a concentration in leadership because I wanted to address a weakness in myself: lack of confidence,” she explained. “I tackled this head on by taking chances in my classes and encouraging open feedback from classmates and professors. I had some challenging professors, but they believed in me, and I made sure to learn as much as I could from them.”

Her classmates at the Woodstock Center included professionals from different sectors — banking, health care, automotive, insurance, manufacturing, public safety, public administration and entrepreneurship — and she now has a built-in network of colleagues in McHenry County, where she lives.

“The collaborative learning format there gave me a greater appreciation of and empathy for people with different types of personalities,” she said. “I use this skillset often in my career and volunteer activities.”

The strong streak of volunteerism in Speciale’s life also has benefited from the self-assurance she gained in her classes. While pursuing her MBA, she became a disaster services volunteer with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, offering support to people displaced by a house fire or weather-related event. She even spent 15 days in Florida with the Red Cross assisting with Hurricane Michael aftermath. In this role, she works in teams that form very rapidly and often with people who have never worked together before.

Speciale is involved in an extraordinary number of other community projects, some in collaboration with Woodstock Center staff. One of them is a mentorship position with the Woodstock High School INCubator program, guiding students through a yearlong entrepreneurship course. Last May, her students gave a competitive business pitch to a board, and her team was chosen as the winner.

“I’m so proud of their hard work and all of the things they have learned,” she said. “I utilized leadership and networking skills that I developed in part thanks to Aurora University. It is nice to see how that impacts our next generation.”

In 2016, she was named among McHenry County’s Women of Distinction for being a role model and leader in her community.

To learn more about the Master of Business Administration program, visit

To learn more about the Master of Public Administration program, visit