Young Alumni Spotlight: Taylor Riley And The Power of Connection

Taylor Riley (Questrom’11, SHA’11) - Blog post

Taylor Riley (Questrom’11, SHA’11) credits her remarkable ability to galvanize colleagues, college students, and inmates alike to lessons learned during her time as an undergraduate, dedicated to shaping some of BU’s most foundational programs.

Paving the Way

To say she was “involved” in campus life would be like saying Dean Elmore is a “fairly” recognizable figure. From the very start, Taylor was determined to make the most of her four years at BU, not only joining numerous clubs and activities but also leading them. She wore many hats over the years: a member of Student Government for four years, a Questrom Dean’s Host, 2011 Class Gift Chair, and a tutor for the LOCK Honorary Service Society; “I went to every event I could, whether it was social, academic, or volunteer.” She rarely missed an opportunity to be involved and positively influence all those she came in contact with.

Leading by Example

One of the most transformational aspects of Taylor’s time on campus was a direct reflection of her innate ability to leverage her peers’ energy and enthusiasm to advance the cause of the University. Borne out of a belief that “previous classes [were] not living up to their [philanthropic] potential” and confident hers could based on the wildly successful annual Casino Night, Taylor volunteered as the chair of 2011 Class Gift Campaign. Though most famous for a certain tuxedo-clad Dean of Students jumping in the Charles River after the Senior Breakfast, under Riley’s leadership the program began a run of success, which continues today, and increased donor participation by over 250%. Taylor attributes this overwhelming success to changing the conversation about giving: “Class Gift is a hard appeal to make because people already owe so much money for tuition, but we focused on how it is not so much about giving to BU, but rather, through BU. Students could support the clubs where they met like-minded peers or the department that inspired them to pursue a certain career,” she says.

5/6/2011 -- Boston, Massachusetts A jump into the Charles. With Individual senior gift donations of $20.11 each, the goal is reached and as promised, Boston University Dean of Students Kenn Elmore jumps into the Charles river in a tuxedo! Photo by Kalman Zabarsky for Boston University Photography
5/6/2011 — Boston, Massachusetts
A jump into the Charles. With Individual senior gift donations of $20.11 each, the goal is reached and as promised, Boston University Dean of Students Kenn Elmore jumps into the Charles river in a tuxedo!
Photo by Kalman Zabarsky for Boston University Photography

Step by Step

As her senior year came to a close, Taylor reflected on her time at BU and realized that her ability to connect with others in a way that encouraged them to excel was a gift that would serve her well as her career unfolded. Riley began her professional journey working in human resources for the food service giant Aramark, the communications firm Vivox, City on a Hill Charter Schools, and Northeastern University where she earned her MS in Leadership concentrating on Human Resources.

With a solid foundation in the HR space, developing her already keen skills of organizing, inspiring and leading groups of people towards personal and professional goals, Taylor decided it was time to apply this plethora of skills and experience to a familiar group: students. Wasting no time, Taylor began as a lecturer of business at Suffolk University in 2015, teaching classes on the foundations of self-understanding, career exploration, research, resume and cover letter writing, interview skills, and professionalism. But for Taylor, like so many BU alums, this just wasn’t enough.

Funded through a government-grant, Taylor began her newest endeavor advising inmates currently enrolled in Boston University’s Prisoner Education Program. With the goal of reducing recidivism and drastically improving quality of life on the outside, she works to provide inmates with the tools necessary to excel at interviewing, teamwork, and resume building, and helping them chart their course through the BU PEP program. She strongly believes that her work will provide them significantly better opportunities to pursue a professional path after being released rather than one that leads back to being incarcerated.

The Journey Never Ends

Inspired to make an even larger impact, Taylor began pursuing her doctorate of education in the fall at Northeastern University, focusing on “urban high school education and factors that lead to lack of on-time graduation rates.” Despite juggling dual positions and doctoral studies, Taylor remains as dedicated to transforming BU as she was while a student. As a young alumna, Riley channels her affinity through continued philanthropy and participation on volunteer boards. She says that both provide her the opportunity to continue making Boston University a vibrant place for students and alumni and she truly enjoys “meeting with young alums to discuss strategy [which allows us] to shape BU’s future.” Commencement most certainly did not herald the end of her connection to Boston University, rather, the beginning of its newest chapter.

This blog post was written by Elizabeth Anderson (CAS’12).