Dean Erika James consistently raises the bar in higher education as an award-winning educator, leading expert in her field, and respected mentor who has paved the way for women leaders. On July 1, she kicked off a new chapter in her career as the first woman and first person of color to be appointed dean of the Wharton School in the institution’s 139-year history.
Over the decades, James’ research into crisis leadership, management, and workplace discrimination—particularly in corporate America—has been extensive. Her published works offer strategies for leaders to grow from their mistakes, build trust in their organizations, create opportunity, and make positive decisions under pressure. She has spoken at conferences across the country to encourage aspiring leaders at every stage of their careers to find their voice. Currently, she’s working on a new book on crisis leadership to be completed this fall.
“As a psychologist working in business education, I learned early on that understanding human behavior and the motivations that drive behavior are pivotal for leadership,” James says. “My scholarship in both diversity and crisis leadership has born that out theoretically, and my experience as an academic leader, a consultant, and a corporate director bear that out practically. I have no doubt that taking the time to truly understand the people that comprise the Wharton community will influence my thinking and the direction of the School during my tenure as dean.”
Looking ahead, James says, “Wharton has a profound responsibility to prepare our students not only to meet today’s challenges, but to prepare them for anticipating and leading the world for tomorrow’s opportunities. That means our scholarship has to foresee what will be needed by business leaders to advance industries and societies, and our curricula has to prepare students for that future.
“I am excited to work with the Wharton community in this regard. We have the faculty expertise, staff ingenuity, alumni engagement, and student ambition to bring this to fruition.”
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