MBCC #BlackInBiz Spotlight Erika H. James Black a woman is making historic moves in academia.

According to the Huffington Post, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has named Erika H. James as its dean, making her the first African American and woman to sit at the helm of the prominent business school. James has dedicated her career to evolving business education at colleges and universities throughout the country. She was the senior associate dean for executive education at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and most recently served as the John H. Harland Dean at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, a role that she has held since 2014. She also taught at Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business and Harvard Business School.

For James—a graduate of Pomona College who holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan—her entire career has been about breaking barriers. James was the first Black woman to be appointed dean of a top-25 business school. She sits on the boards of the Graduate Management Admissions Council, SurveyMonkey, and Atlanta-based nonprofits focused on advancing women in business. In her new role—which she will officially start on July 1—she will be responsible for leading and evolving the programs at an institution that is known for educating renowned business leaders. She succeeds Geoff Garrett.

The leadership team is excited to bring James on board. “Erika is an award-winning scholar and teacher and a strong, proven leader who serves as dean of the Goizueta Business School at Emory University,” said Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania. “A passionate and visible champion of the power of business and business education to positively transform communities locally, nationally, and globally, she is exceptionally well prepared to lead Wharton into the next exciting chapter of its storied history.” James says she plans on creating a “far-reaching impact for students, scholars and the business community.”

Erika becomes the dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business since it was established 139 years ago.

Last week, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania announced that Erika James, the current dean of Emory University’s business school, would become the new dean in July 2020.

The Wharton School
The Wharton School. 

James shared the news of her new position on LinkedIn, commenting that the “scope and platform of the Wharton School provides an opportunity to create far-reaching impacts for students, scholars, and the business community.”

wharton campus
The Wharton School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

James will be the first woman and person of color to lead the 139-year-old prestigious institution.

The Wharton School
The Wharton School. 

James will succeed Geoff Garrett, who has taken a position as dean of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

University of Southern California. 

James was born in Bermuda and moved to the US when she was young. In the US she lived in St. Louis and then in Texas, where she eventually graduated from high school.

Erika James Wharton School
Erika James discussing her background during a faculty profile video for the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, where she was a senior associate dean.

“The scope and platform of the Wharton School provides an opportunity to create far-reaching impact for students, scholars and the business community,” says Erika H. James.

James studied psychology at Pomona College in Claremont, California as an undergraduate and later received her master’s and Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan.

University of Michigan Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Though she studied diversity in the workplace as a graduate student, James discovered her academic focus, the intersection of crisis leadership and workplace diversity, during her first teaching job at Tulane University.

tulane university
Tulane University. 

While teaching an evening class of MBA students, a prominent oil company was in the middle of a major class-action race discrimination lawsuit. By coincidence, many of her students were employees at that company.

new orleans
The oil company was located in New Orleans, where some employees attended James’ evening class.

During class discussions about the lawsuit, James recognized that her personal interest in diversity applied to larger challenges that organizations were facing in adjusting to a new, more diverse environment.

Day in the Life, Wharton
Classroom at the Wharton School. 

This led her to focus on issues of crisis leadership and workplace diversity, and often, where the two intersect. Some of her published papers include: “How to Display Competence in Times of Crisis,” and “Diversity Crises: How Firms Manage Discrimination Lawsuits.”

The Wharton School. 

James was a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business between 2001 and 2012, as well as a visiting associate professor at Harvard Business School for a year, according to her LinkedIn profile.

university of virginia
The University of Virginia.

In 2014, James became dean of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, the 21st best business school in the country, according to a U.S. News & World Report ranking.

Emory University Campus Goizueta Business School Building
Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. 

While at Goizueta, James grew the faculty size by 25% in her first term, spearheaded an initiative to build an innovation and entrepreneurship lab, and also led workshops on unconscious bias for students and professors.

Emory University Campus
Emory University.

During James’ almost six years of leadership as dean, Goizueta continued to improve student career success and diversity. The business school reports that it has one of the most gender-diverse faculties with a 25-34% female population, as of May 2019.

Goizueta Business School graduates
Emory’s Goizueta Business School. 

James describes herself as a “virtue capitalist,” which means that she believes that business can benefit both industry and society.

The Wharton School
The Wharton School. 

Amy Gutmann, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, said that Erika’s interdisciplinary outlook and focus on how business education can benefit communities makes her “exceptionally well-prepared to lead Wharton into the next exciting chapter of its storied history.”

wharton commencement hamdi ulukaya
Commencement speech at The Wharton School. 

The Wharton School, founded in 1881, has over 235 faculty members and 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Some of its notable alumni include Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, Sundar Pichai, and Donald Trump.

Wharton University of Pennsylvania
The Wharton School.

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