Erika James, New Dean Of Wharton, Reflects On Her Journey

Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business


Another early focus of James’s was making faculty diversity a core principle.

“For me, at this time, as the only black woman dean, particularly at a top-25 school, I was mindful that people were going to be looking to see whether or not we’d move the needle on faculty diversity under my tenure,” James candidly says. So she again tapped her dean of faculty and research to devise a plan. She started by having very open and honest conversations with all faculty members in the different departments at Goizueta. To devise a hiring and recruiting plan, James figured she needed to really know what the professors liked and didn’t like at Goizueta. “That also meant I had very candid conversations across the school about diversity and inclusion,” James says, noting her experience both in diversity and inclusion focused-research and her personal demographics as a black woman. “From both a scholarly perspective and lived experience, I brought some credibility to the diversity conversations and actions that we were looking to make as the faculty.”

Since James became dean, 46% of the faculty hired at Goizueta have been women, the school says. She did this while increasing Goizueta’s overall faculty by 25%. Her work earned her the Earl Hill Jr. Faculty Achievement and Diversity Award from the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management last May.

“We were very intentional around processes for creating a more diverse faculty in our hiring and recruiting practices,” James says, noting they also put an emphasis on retaining the faculty they already had, which included fending off offers from competitor schools.

“We just had an opportunity to do better in our faculty diversity,” James says, “regardless if we were comparing ourselves to other colleges or departments within the university or if we were comparing ourselves to other business schools.”


James has also focused on increasing and continuing the school’s resources around entrepreneurship and social enterprise. Building on the work Emory had previously been doing in the Atlanta community, James says a focus continued to be “creating economic vitality in markets that are under-served.” The focus was on local communities were jobs were sparse, transportation was limited, and food deserts abounded. “We saw those communities as places where business schools could provide a unique service by creating budding entrepreneurs to create economic vitality in those communities,” she says.

The need matched demand Goizueta has been seeing among its students over recent years, James says. There has also been an increase in demand among students in coursework that represents those same interests. A significant percentage of graduate and undergraduate students are seeking currently seeking courses that are focused on social entrepreneurship or tieing society and business together in impactful ways, James says.

Indeed, the Social Enterprise @ Goizueta programming is robust. Goizueta has created concentration study areas in social enterprise and nonprofit studies. More than 200 students enroll in social enterprise-focused courses each year at Goizueta. Its Start:Me program has helped accelerate more than 200 local Atlanta small businesses, not including 50 in the current class of ventures. The investment has led to additional investments in the space from individuals, companies, and foundations that want to support Goizueta’s work in the area, James says.

Culminating a push and investment into entrepreneurship was the opening of The Hatchery this past February. The brand new building constructed for student entrepreneurs was the result of a team effort between leadership at Goizueta, Emory’s School of Medicine, and Emory College. “The idea was to create a physical space for students who are entrepreneurial-minded who wanted access to peers in other schools,” James says. “We didn’t have that space at Emory. So my role was to talk with the other nine deans at Emory, presenting the case why Emory needed to do something like this.” James and her team drafted the report in support of The Hatchery that was presented to the university’s provost and Goizueta continues to offer guidance and courses for the hub.


Perhaps one of the toughest transitions in front of James as she concludes her time at Goizueta and looks to Wharton this summer is the difference in size. Wharton has more than 5,000 students across all of its programs — far more than Goizueta, which has under 350 students in its full-time MBA program and around 800 in its two-year undergraduate business program.

“Everyone knows each other here,” James says of Goizueta. “And because you know each other, you care deeply about each other in ways that — for the right person — creates a homey kind of environment.” That intimacy coupled with the expectation of academic excellence are “hallmarks” of how people characterize Goizueta, James believes. “Not everyone wants to go to a school where they are this visible. And we’re okay with that,” James admits. “But for us, when we attract the right people here who want the same type of community feeling, then it really is the secret sauce to what makes individual success here but also why we’ve been able to be successful with student outcomes here. We deeply care about giving our students need in terms of resources to have access to what they need to be successful.”

As James leaves for her next position and away from the school that truly started her academic path, she has a feeling of gratitude.

“I am truly grateful for this experience at Emory,” James says. “My colleagues, the students, both within the business school and across the university are truly what’s special about this school. And students that come here feel that deeply.”


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