Erika James

New dean on the business block

More than a month into her appointment as dean of the Goizueta Business School, Erika James has just completed what she calls her listening tour. "The good news is that I'm hearing similar points from people, and that helps me narrow my focus," says James.

She already has some ideas to move the top 25-ranked business school to the next level. As a forerunner of experiential learning, Goizueta has a long history of engagement with local businesses, and James sees opportunities to strengthen those partnerships, bringing faculty research to bear on challenges faced by the corporate community in metro Atlanta. This engagement works both ways, she says. "Our students also can learn from real-world problems through the business projects they undertake with the practicing community."

Another area of focus will be to re-energize the alumni base, which is thousands strong and spread throughout the world. James, a faculty member at Goizueta early in her career, thinks of the school's alumni as a powerful force of ambassadors in talent and thought leadership.

As the first African American woman to lead a top-ranked business school, James brings an awareness that business schools should be more diverse and more accessible for minority groups, core values of Goizueta Business School and ones that she will make priorities as dean. She also wants to make business more exciting for the millennial generation. James, an expert in crisis leadership who cut her academic teeth on the Enron scandal, worries that business is beginning to wane as a popular career in light of recent corporate scandals. GMAT applications and applications to business schools are down in general, although not at Emory, and she foresees a narrowing pipeline of high quality, diverse applicants.

As dean, she wants to make sure that Goizueta stays competitive. Next up on her listening tour? A town hall for the school to be held on Tuesday, Sept. 23, where she will share her ideas and learn more from the community she serves.