School of Continuing Studies’ Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly named global 2021 Female Executive of the Year

Image announcing Awards

Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly has been named Female Executive of the Year in the 18th annual Stevie® Awards. Taylor-O’Reilly, assistant vice-president of continuing studies at York University, was recognized as the Gold Award recipient 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 to be formally recognized at a global event in January 2022.   

Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly
Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly

The Stevie Awards have been hailed as the world’s premier business awards and have been called the “Oscars of the business world.” Award winners were determined by the average scores of more than 160 business professionals around the world, working on eight juries. Regarding 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 recent university graduates and the workforce for the 21st century. 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.

“Starting a new school gave me the opportunity to fundamentally rethink 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,” said Taylor-O’Reilly, who sought to change the way education is developed and delivered. “We set a new standard for innovation and value in the face of the demands of Industry 4.0 and the pandemic.”

Reflecting on the success, Taylor-O’Reilly noted 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 full-time and part-time programs, talented instructors with deep industry experience, and new intensive learning options that help professionals to quickly upskill or reskill within months.

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

Video: Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly talks about being named Female Executive of the Year

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 because of the crisis.

To learn more about the 40 programs currently offered through York University’s School of Continuing Studies, visit