Emory Goizueta’s New Dean Wants To Take The B-School From ‘Strong’ To ‘Premier’

Gareth James, seen here in a USC Marshall classroom, spent the last 24 years in Southern California. In July he will take over as the new dean at Emory Goizueta in Atlanta. USC photo

In 2019, Geoff Garrett left the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School to become dean of USC’s Marshall School of Business. A year later, Wharton found his replacement in Erika James, dean of Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta.

Last month, after a nearly two-year search, the Goizueta School announced it had found its new dean — and he shares a last name (though no relation) with his predecessor, and an employer with hers.

Gareth James will officially take the helm at the Goizueta School in July after 24 years at USC Marshall. He takes over a program with “impressive ambitions,” one “whose very name represents an important legacy for both Emory and the Atlanta region.”

“I wasn’t looking to make a move,” James says. “I was pretty happy. But Goizueta was just such an amazing opportunity that I felt I needed to make that move.”


Gareth James

Though James, a statistician by training, spent his entire teaching career in Southern California, the Emory Goizueta deanship will not technically be his first. He was interim dean at the Marshall School for about a year in 2019-2020 following the departure of Dean Jim Ellis, until the school hired Wharton’s Garrett. It was not an uneventful interregnum: As temporary dean, James led the school’s response to coronavirus beginning in March 2020. After Garrett arrived, James became deputy dean, a position he has held since.

But when James takes over at Emory Goizueta, he will helm a program in a very different part of the country, and in very different circumstances, with very different MBA student populations. In the 2020-2021 application cycle, USC Marshall received nearly 2,500 applications for a spot in the Class of 2023; Emory received 915. Marshall accepted 23% of applicants; Goizueta took more than twice the amount, 53%. Marshall’s class average GMAT score was 716, up 9 points in one year; Emory’s, though it also climbed 9 points year-to-year, was 692. Marshall, which in 2018 became the first major B-school to achieve parity in the full-time MBA, enrolled 36% women last fall; Emory had among the smallest class of women at just 27%. The Marshall School is currently ranked 18th by Poets&Quants, while the Goizueta School is 26th.

But in one final — yet very important — comparison, the two schools aren’t so different after all. Marshall’s 2021 MBA graduates enjoyed strong returns in hiring, at 94.2% three months after graduation, with average base pay of about $131,000 — but Emory was better, with an incredible 99% employment rate and average salary of $134,700.

James sees great potential. He also sees the need for growth.

“I really feel like the university and the school itself in the next five to 10 years are going to go from really strong institutions to really premier places,” James says of his new home. “Honestly, when I look at Goizueta, it feels to me like they have an incredible asset base in terms of the quality of all of the faculty, staff, students, and the university itself. And maybe that hasn’t been fully operationalized. I think there’s the potential there to take the school even further than it has been. But I think one of the keys is the revenue base. And I think even though I like the size of the school, I think we do need to grow the size of the school a little bit so that we have a good, sustainable revenue base for the quality of students and faculty and staff that we want to maintain at the school.”


Might growth mean the launch of new programs — even a new online MBA? After all, Emory Goizueta recently launched the highest-ranked executive MBA program in the United States. Adding fuel to the speculation, it should be noted that its new dean is coming from the school with Poets&Quants‘ highest-ranked online MBA.

“I think there are a number of potential opportunities for the school, and obviously I’m a little biased coming from Marshall and the things that have been successful here,” James says. “And I don’t want to try to overly transport what’s worked here and say ‘Obviously it will work at Goizueta as well,’ but I can tell you that at Marshall, both our online MBA program and many of our specialized master’s programs have been tremendously successful, both in terms of quality and in terms of student demand and the revenue side of things. Our graduate revenue has increased about two-thirds as a result of those new programs at Marshall — and in turn, that revenue helps us to improve the quality of our full-time MBA program, which is obviously a big revenue and reputation driver for the school.

“And I think that Goizueta there’s some opportunities to do some of that there as well.”

James has a lot of experience with the Marshall online MBA, and his experience tells him it’s a rewarding program — for the students as well as the faculty and the B-school.

“We have an incredibly high-quality program,” he says of Marshall’s online MBA. Moreover, it’s a money-maker. “It’s actually now generating some good revenue for us, and it’s incredibly hard to start. These programs are much harder than a regular program: the administrative complications, the financial expenses, and the faculty and staff work involved in them is an order of magnitude higher than a regular program — which is not to say it’s not a good investment. I’m very pleased that Marshall did it, but I was the vice dean of faculty when we started that program, and it was a lot of work just trying to figure out how to compensate faculty and what the right model was for faculty and staff working together.

“It’s much more of a cooperative model than the usual approach with the faculty, which is like the god of the classroom and he or she does whatever they want to do. It has to be a real team effort. So it’s a challenging program, but also, yeah, I’m absolutely open to considering that.

“But again, I don’t want to push ideas that have worked at Marshall and say we should transplant them all to Goizueta. I think they’ve got their own innovative programs going. And in particular, they’re just starting in the full and online EMBA program, which I’m very interested to learn more about.”


Moving after so long at USC, and so many ups and downs — including dealing with Covid-19 for the last two years — has been hard on a personal level. Professionally, James sees it as the chance of a lifetime.

“It was certainly bittersweet — a lot of close friends and colleagues, 600 faculty and staff at Marshall,” he says. “So that part of it was really tough. But on the other side, it was sort of an easy decision after learning about what’s going on in Emory, what’s going on at Goizueta. Emory’s got a new president and a new provost, and they’ve got an incredible ambition for Emory. I sort of see it as repeating what USC’s done over the last three decades, but starting at a much higher level than USC started at — USC 30 years ago was a pretty mediocre university.

“Emory’s already a top-tier research institution, but I see that same level at ambition and resources and strategic planning and leadership to achieve that. So even though at the start, I was sort of just applying to learn more about the process and the job, by the end, after talking with both the senior university leadership and some of the faculty staff and the students, it just felt like an incredible opportunity to be part of a new journey in that direction.”

See the next page for Poets&Quants‘ exclusive Q&A with Gareth James, edited for length and clarity.

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