Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly will be leaving her role as Assistant Vice-President of Continuing Studies at York University in mid-February. She is taking on a new challenge as President & Chief Executive Officer at Pathways to Education Canada, a national organization that works to break the cycle of poverty through education. Their award-winning program leverages partnerships across government, for-profit, and not-for-profit sectors to improve high school graduation rates in low-income communities. By joining Pathways to Education Canada, Tracey will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of people in underserved populations and will help to create a more equitable society.
As an inspirational leader and advocate for education, she has dedicated the last two decades to identifying and filling gaps in the post-secondary education system to ensure access to relevant purpose-built educational experiences for groups previously underserved, such as adult learners, international students, internationally educated professionals, and employers seeking to upskill their workforce.
“We’ve made enormous progress in evolving university continuing education to be agile and meet the greatest needs across Canada and beyond,” she says. “Education is the great enabler. It is a life changer for the individual, their family, and the generations that follow. Ensuring that people have access to the right education at each stage of life is critical to our society and economy.”
Tracey joined York University nine years ago in December 2013, with the mandate to create a pan-university School to support adult and non-traditional learners. Tracey founded the York University School of Continuing Studies and publicly launched the School in January 2015. By amalgamating the York University English Language Institute with the former Division of Continuing Education from the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, she and her team created what became an internationally award-winning School in English language and professional education that is among the largest of its kind in North America.
With the creation of the School of Continuing Studies, Tracey sought to disrupt an outdated education model for adult learners by creating a new paradigm that placed the learner first while also serving the needs of employers. This new model broke down barriers that prevented adult learners from upskilling and pursuing their career paths by making continuing education accessible and affordable and prioritizing cross-functional skills workers need to advance in their roles.
She championed the development of new programs that address Canada’s largest labour market gaps by rapidly upskilling and reskilling recent graduates, adult workers, and international students for these roles. Often the School was the first to introduce university programs in in-demand, up-and-coming fields to the Canadian market, such as the Certificate in Machine Learning and the Certificate in Blockchain Development.
Tracey developed the School’s accelerated cohort format, an innovative learning model new to continuing education, enabling students to advance through the session with the same set of peers, allowing learners to develop a network of like-minded professionals. The School’s accelerated format also allowed professionals to take a program while still working and graduate in months rather than years.
During her nine years with the School, she established York University as a leader and innovator in adult education and led the School to many milestone achievements, including:
- Developing partnerships with hundreds of key industry professionals and leading organizations
- Overseeing the creation of over 30 professional programs and increased enrolments by 1800% over eight years
- Evolving the York University English Language Institute into a top language school and an international award-winning provider
- Managing a seamless, two-day transition to online learning for the School’s programs at the start of the pandemic–a response that was the envy of the Canadian post-secondary sector.
Through much of her tenure with the School, Tracey oversaw the design and development of a new 97,000-square-foot home for the School of Continuing Studies on York’s Keele Campus. The building, which opened its doors in late 2022, was designed with a focus on sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Features of the new building include accessible, technologically advanced classrooms, lactation, prayer, and meditation rooms, and Net-Zero Energy and Net-Zero Carbon design and technology.
Tracey is a thought leader and frequent speaker on topics related to the future of work, talent development, and the future of higher education in Canada and around the world.
Before York University, Tracey held leadership and teaching positions at McMaster University and worked in the public and consulting sectors.
In 2021 Tracey was honoured with the WXN Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada award and a Stevie award as the global Female Executive of the Year in the large government and non-profit category.
As a Chartered Director (C.Dir), Tracey is also a Board Director. She is a Board member and past committee chair for Achēv, one of Canada’s leaders in developing human capital. She’s served on and led the Board of the Canadian Association for University Continuing Education (CAUCE).
We thank Tracey for her inspirational leadership over nine transformative years and all she has done for the School and York University. We wish her all the best as she embarks on this exciting new chapter in her life and career.
At this time, we are pleased to announce that Christine Brooks-Cappadocia will be taking over Tracey’s duties as interim assistant-vice president of continuing studies at York University. Christine has worked side-by-side with Tracey for over 15 years in progressive roles overseeing marketing, programming, and, most recently, all program and partnership responsibilities within the School. York will be engaging an executive firm to search for Tracey’s successor in the months ahead.