York University’s Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly named global 2021 Female Executive of the Year

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By Matthew McGrath

Higher education leader was selected from among 1,500 nominations around the world

York University is proud to announce that Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly has been named Female Executive of the Year in the 18th Annual Stevie® Awards. The Stevie Awards have been hailed as the world’s premier business awards and have been called the ‘Oscars of the business world.’ Taylor-O’Reilly, Assistant Vice-President of Continuing Studies, was recognized as the Gold Award Winner in the Government or Non-Profit category for organizations with 2,500 or more employees. In total there were 1,500 nominees for the Stevie Awards for Women in Business from 35 countries, with winners being formally recognized at a global event in January.    

Award winners were determined by the average scores of more than 160 business professionals around the world, working on eight juries.  Regarding Ms. Taylor-O’Reilly, judges noted, “it is great to see visionary women leading the charge for education” and hailed the “valiant response to the COVID crisis, making education and upskilling more available than ever.”

Taylor-O’Reilly reimagined the role of universities to support upskilling and reskilling of our workforce for the 21st century. Founding and launching York University’s School of Continuing Studies in 2015, she created a vision and new model that is unique in North America resulting in York’s emergence as a global leader in this space. She has tirelessly devoted her time and energy to ensuring cutting-edge and market-responsive programs that lead to in-demand and high-paying jobs.  Many programs have won awards for quality and innovation.

Taylor-O’Reilly sought to change the way education is developed and delivered.  “Starting a new School gave me the opportunity to fundamentally re-think professional education, how and when we deliver it, how we integrate employers, how we help people make career choices in an increasingly confusing world, and how we support career transitions. We set a new standard for innovation and value in the face of the demands of Industry 4.0 and the pandemic,” said Taylor-O’Reilly.  

Reflecting on the success, Taylor-O’Reilly notes that “few great accomplishments come without great struggles. I am most proud of our passionate and dedicated team of staff and instructors that continue to innovate, adapt, and serve with a deep sense of purpose. Never before has our work been more important.”

In its first five years, the School of Continuing Studies saw professional program enrolment grow 10-fold, followed by growth of another 24 per cent in the first year of the pandemic. This has been a by-product of innovative new programs, talented instructors with deep industry experience, and new full-time intensive learning options that help professionals to quickly up-skill or re-skill within months.

This growth represents the largest and most successful start-up in the sector across North America.  To help accommodate the rapid growth, Taylor-O’Reilly played a pivotal leadership role in designing a stunning 97,000-square-foot new Continuing Studies building currently under construction.  Custom-designed to support the needs of adult and international students, the cutting-edge $73 million building will have more than 50 classrooms and is scheduled to open in the spring of 2022.    

Judges commended the rapid and bold pandemic response.  When in-person learning shut down in 2020, the School moved all classes online within two days, and provided unique career and emergency financial supports to both students and members of the public who found themselves in critical need as a result of the crisis.  

Find out more about the 40 programs currently offered through York University’s School of Continuing Studies that have attracted students from more than 50 countries around the world.