Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett announced James’ appointment which takes effect July in a statement Wednesday.
The history-making appointment makes James the school’s first-ever African American and woman dean in its 139-year history.
Founded in 1881 as the world’s first collegiate business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is shaping the future of business by incubating ideas, driving insights, and creating leaders who change the world.
With a faculty of more than 235 renowned professors, Wharton has 5,000 undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA, and doctoral students.
“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 Gutmann.
“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,” she added.
A Ph.D. and master’s degree holder in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, James received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pomona College of the Claremont Colleges, in California.
She will succeed Geoff Garrett, who is to become dean of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, the statement said.
“Erika has consistently and constructively drawn upon her own scholarship in the areas of leadership development, organizational behavior, gender, and racial diversity, and crisis leadership applying her own insights into human behavior to foster a work culture that allows people to thrive personally and professionally,” Provost Wendell Pritchett said.
“She has led faculty and student workshops on such topics as unconscious bias and building trust across divides and has been engaged as a consultant by some of the nation’s largest and most prestigious firms.”
An active member of the SurveyMonkey Board and the Graduate Management Admissions Council, James was awarded the Earl Hill Jr. Faculty Achievement and Diversity Award from The Consortium, an organization committed to increasing diversity in business, starting with graduate school admissions.
She has also been named one of the Top 10 Women of Power in Education by Black Enterprise and as one of the Power 100 by Ebony Magazine.
“Wharton has risen to even greater heights throughout Geoff’s enormously successful six-year tenure, reinforcing all of its traditional strengths while also building its global force in data analytics, entrepreneurship, fintech, behavioral economics, and other fields that are defining the future of business,” Gutmann said.
Before her new appointment, James served as the dean of the Goizueta Business School in 2014, where she has introduced and led an effort to build an innovation and entrepreneurship lab open to all students on campus.
She grew the Goizueta faculty by 25 percent by the end of her first term, building a critical mass of junior faculty and seasoned scholars in key academic areas such as behavioral and decision-based research, business analytics, and health care innovation.
Before her deanship, James served as the senior associate dean for executive education at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
She also served as an assistant professor at Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business and a visiting professor at Harvard Business School.
“This is an exciting time to be in business education,” James said. “The scope and platform of the Wharton School provides an opportunity to create a far-reaching impact for students, scholars, and the business community.”