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Black women are making historic moves in academia. According to the Huffington Post, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has named Erika H. James as its dean, making her the first African American and woman to sit at the helm of the prominent business school.

James has dedicated her career to evolving business education at colleges and universities throughout the country. She was the senior associate dean for executive education at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and most recently served as the John H. Harland Dean at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, a role that she has held since 2014. She also taught at Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business and Harvard Business School.

For James—a graduate of Pomona College who holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan—her entire career has been about breaking barriers. James was the first Black woman to be appointed dean of a top-25 business school. She sits on the boards of the Graduate Management Admissions Council, SurveyMonkey, and Atlanta-based nonprofits focused on advancing women in business. In her new role—which she will officially start on July 1—she will be responsible for leading and evolving the programs at an institution that is known for educating renowned business leaders. She succeeds Geoff Garrett.

The leadership team is excited to bring James on board. “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 Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania. “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.” James says she plans on creating a “far-reaching impact for students, scholars and the business community.”

Many Black women are breaking racial and gender barriers in higher education. Dr. Lori S. White was recently appointed as the president of DePauw University, making her the first woman and African American to sit at the helm of the Indiana-based liberal arts school.


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