Emory Dean Erika James is Making History
Erika James, Dean Goizueta Business School, Emory University
mkPhoto by: Ann Borden/Emory
When Erika James assumed her position as Dean of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, she made history as the first African-American woman to hold this position for a top-tier school. We were honored that she took the time to speak us about her achievements.
What does it mean to you to be the first African-American dean of a top-tier business school?
“It’s certainly a privilege and an honor to be in this position. It’s also a significant responsibility and — quite honestly — a shame that in 2014 we’re looking at the first African American woman to hold this kind of position. It’s a responsibility for me to create an environment and a context that makes business school a viable option for racial minorities or women or others who have not traditionally been included.”
What advice or nugget of wisdom would you like to share with underrepresented students or businesspersons who are considering an MBA program or want to advance in their careers?
“It’s so important to create an inclusive environment that reflects the world of business, which is much more diverse than it was in the past. It has to be the core to what we deliver in a Goizueta learning experience and, to me, something that requires larger changes in business. I would tell aspiring students and businesspersons to embrace the great diversity of options that come with a business degree. When you go to medical school, you become a doctor. Law school, a lawyer. No one really becomes a ‘businessman’ or ‘businesswoman’ with a business degree; Instead they have a wide range of opportunities. We work hard to offer that as a business school and we need to do a better job guiding people into the right careers to meet their goals.”
Who were some of your role models and mentors who helped you achieve your success? How so?
“My mother has always been a great role model and, whether she realized it or not, inspired my research. I watched as she made choices to benefit her family. Women often have to make tough choices when balancing home and career. Watching my mother gave me both inspiration and a desire to more fully understand the aspects of women in the workplace and what it means to be a leader.”
We hope you are as inspired as we are by James’ focus on inclusion in the workplace.