Erika James, who will become Wharton's first female and Black dean on July 1, hopes to continue to elevate the Wharton School's impact on the business world.
James also became the first Black woman to head a top-25 United States business school when she assumed her current position as dean of Goizueta Business School at Emory University in 2014. Prior to her tenure at Goizueta, she served as the senior associate dean for executive education at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and was a visiting professor at Harvard business school.
James said although it was a difficult decision to leave Emory, Wharton’s impact on the business world ultimately compelled her to accept the position.
“The ability to continue to do this work on behalf of students and faculty and spread the important role that business plays at an institution that has so much global reach was very attractive,” James said.
James said that before she officially assumes the position in July, she will begin working with current Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett and the alumni network in Atlanta, where Emory is located, to become more familiar with the Wharton community. She added that she hopes to help Wharton affiliates thrive and provide them with even more opportunities than they currently have.
"One of my first goals will just be to get to learn about the faculty, staff, students, and alumni and understand what motivates them, what they're excited about, and where they see opportunities for the future," James said.
James said that her main responsibility as Wharton dean will be to advance the school’s mission of creating the world’s next "visionaries, inventors, and trailblazers." She added that she will provide faculty with resources to conduct research, offer innovative programs for undergraduate and graduate students, and ensure Wharton alumni continue to feel engaged and help lead the direction of the school.
“I want to make sure that we continue to elevate [Wharton students'] scholarship and ensure that it is applicable to help solve the world’s greatest challenges,” James said. “I think Wharton is particularly primed to be able to do that because of the scale and reach.”
She will succeed Garrett, who will leave Penn to serve as dean of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, effective on July 1.
After Garrett announced his departure from Wharton in June 2019, the University formed a committee of faculty, students, and alumni to advise the selection of the next dean of Wharton. Executive Vice President of Penn Health System and Perelman School of Medicine Dean J. Larry Jameson chaired the committee.
James said that she was invited to meet with the search advisory committee in fall 2019, after which she met with Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett.
James said that her long-term goal is to leave Wharton better than it was when she began the job.
“It’s had incredible leadership over the years, so that will be a tall task,” James said. “As the environment changes, there will be new opportunities to experiment in business education, and I look forward to being able to work with the faculty, staff, and students there on what that might look like.”