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Dr. Erika James Becomes First African-American Female Dean of Emory Business School

emory erikaA female, African-American Ph.D. will become Emory’s Goizueta Business School next dean — a first in school history and a first among top business school programs.

Erika Hayes James, a former senior associate dean for executive education at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia, will assume her new role at Emory on July 15. James earned her doctorate degree in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan and built a career by connecting her knowledge of organizational psychology with executive leadership. She also has served as a consultant to several Fortune 500 companies, according to the Emory announcement.

While three minority women are currently deans at American colleges of business, James will be the first to lead a full-time MBA program at a top-25 business school, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The full-time MBA program at Goizueta is ranked No. 1 by Bloomberg BusinessWeek for job placement. Four of the school’s degree programs rank in the top 25.

Claire Sterk, the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Emory, made it clear that James’ race and gender were not driving factors in the school’s hiring decision. Breaking a glass ceiling of sorts by bringing her into the top business school role is just a bonus, she said.

As James takes the helm at Goizueta, diversity among faculty at business schools far and wide remains lacking. In 2013, a mere 3.8 percent of full-time business school faculty identified as Black in an AACSB survey. Bernie Milano is a president at the PhD Project, a non-profit that helps minorities earn their doctorates and become business professors. When the organization began its work in 1994, there were fewer than 300 business school professors of color in the U.S., according to Milano. That number has grown to roughly 1,237, but Milano says there is still much more work to be done. “It is a sad state,” he adds.

James is also just one among a few women leading American business school programs: 22 percent of American business schools have female deans, according to a report by the AACSB. Although female business school deans have slowly been increasing in number, a recent AACSB study indicates that this has not led to significantly more women getting MBAs. In 2013, female enrollment at MBA programs at schools with female deans was 38.6 percent, vs. 35.3 percent at business schools run by men.

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