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Wharton Business School Named its First Woman Dean

Erika H. James will be the first woman and first person of color to hold the role in the school’s 139-year history.

The Wharton School

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School announced Wednesday that Erika H. James will be its next dean.

The longtime academic will be the first woman and first person of color to hold the role in the school’s 139-year history. She currently serves as dean of the Goizueta Business School at Emory University and will start her position at Wharton, the world’s first collegiate business school, in July.

“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,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said in a statement. “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.”

When James assumed her current role at Emory in 2014, she also became its “first African American woman dean." Some of her accomplishments included building an innovation and entrepreneurship lab for students and increasing the faculty by 25% in her first term. 

“My hope is that we start to normalize this experience and one day we won’t have to start stories with ‘What does it feel like to be the first’ because people just become so accustomed to it,” James told CNBC in an interview.

James will succeed Geoff Garrett, who is leaving to become dean at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. She also sits on the SurveyMonkey board, is part of the Graduate Management Admissions Council, and has been named one of the Power 100 by Ebony Magazine.

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