Erika H. James

Dean of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Erika H. James

Dean of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania


Erika H. James became the dean of the Wharton School on July 1, 2020. Trained as an organizational psychologist, Dean James is a leading expert on crisis leadership, workplace diversity, and management strategy.

Prior to her appointment at Wharton, Dean James was the John H. Harland Dean at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School from 2014 to 2020. An award-winning educator, accomplished consultant, and innovative researcher, she has paved the way for women in leadership both in education and corporate America. Dean James has been instrumental in developing groundbreaking executive education programs, including the Women’s Leadership program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School.


Dean James is a sought-after thought leader whose expertise has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, and numerous other media outlets. She has been widely recognized as one of the most powerful and influential women in business and education by Barron’s, Black Enterprise, and Ebony.

In addition to her academic responsibilities, Dean James is a board member of Morgan Stanley, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc., and several organizations that align with her passions for education and advancing women in business. Additionally, she serves as an advisory board member to Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management and as an executive board member to the Indian School of Business.

Her latest book is The Prepared Leader: Emerge from Any Crisis More Resilient Than Before (Wharton School Press) which she co-authored with Lynn Perry Wooten, President of Simmons University. She and Wooten are also co-authors of Leading Under Pressure: From Surviving to Thriving Before, During, and After a Crisis.

Dean James holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, as well as a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pomona College of the Claremont Colleges in California.

Previous Deans

Wharton has been shaped by its leaders — just 17 individuals, from Wharton’s first director Edmund J. James in 1883 to current Dean Erika James.

Show List

Geoffrey Garrett, 2014-2020

Over his six years as Wharton’s Dean, Geoffrey Garrett promoted progress and improvement at every level of the School. With a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, the future of finance, and analytics, Garrett launched numerous initiatives including Analytics at Wharton, Venture Lab, and a dedicated Teaching Excellence effort. Garrett oversaw numerous construction projects including two game-changing buildings on Wharton’s Philadelphia campus with 150,000 combined square feet of experiential learning space. He also brought together the entire community in support of the More Than Ever fundraising campaign which raised over $850 million including the largest gift in School history.

Thomas S. Robertson, 2007-2014

In his tenure as dean, Thomas S. Robertson championed business as a force for good. He institutionalized three strategic pillars—Social Impact, Innovation, and Global Initiatives. He oversaw a comprehensive overhaul of the MBA curriculum, established the MBA “Semester in San Francisco,” and created the concept of Global Modular courses. He also led major initiatives—Lifelong Learning for alumni, the Wharton Public Policy Program, the establishment of the Penn-Wharton China Center, and a major commitment to online learning. Despite the financial crisis of 2008, Robertson led Wharton to exceed its campaign fundraising goal, raising $607 million, which allowed an increase in faculty size and a continued focus on faculty and student standards of excellence.

Patrick T. Harker, 1999-2007

Patrick T. Harker advanced and expanded the academic mission of the School, drawing many eminent faculty. He created Wharton | San Francisco and forged an alliance with INSEAD, the leading non-U.S. based business school. He also oversaw the launching of two innovative and successful initiatives: Knowledge@Wharton and Wharton School Publishing. Harker led Wharton to complete the largest fundraising campaign in its history, raising over $450 million.

Thomas P. Gerrity, 1990-1999

Thomas P. Gerrity oversaw the revolutionary reengineering of the School’s MBA and undergraduate programs to reflect the increasingly global and technology-oriented world, ultimately bringing the School unprecedented worldwide recognition for excellence. During his tenure, student applications, student quality, and endowment reached record levels. Additionally, he spearheaded the fundraising effort for Jon M. Huntsman Hall, the world’s premier business school academic facility, completed in 2002.

Russell E. Palmer, 1983-1990

Russell E. Palmer laid the foundation for Wharton to move into the forefront of business education at the graduate, undergraduate, and executive levels. Through his five-year “Plan for Preeminence,” Palmer successfully strengthened and broadened the faculty, increased the quality of applications the School received, oversaw the building of the Steinberg Conference Center (a state-of-the-art executive education facility) and furthered the process of creating an international and cross-disciplinary curriculum.

Donald C. Carroll, 1972-1983

At the time of his selection, Donald C. Carroll was the first dean to have come from outside the School. During his tenure, he enhanced the School’s depth and strength through the development of interdisciplinary programs and the creation of inter-school degrees, including the undergraduate degree in Management & Technology. Additionally, Carroll significantly advanced Wharton’s international outreach efforts and executive education initiatives.

Willis J. Winn, 1958-1971

Willis J. Winn is credited with leading curricular reform and upgrading the quality of Wharton’s academic programs, the PhD and entrepreneurial programs in particular. In addition, Winn further strengthened Wharton’s reputation for research through his active recruitment of senior scholars.

C. Arthur Kulp, 1955-1957

C. Arthur Kulp, the first dean in Wharton’s history to be named with the participation of faculty, tragically died only two years into his administration. Prior to his death, however, Dean Kulp brought recognition to the School because of his expertise in the field of social insurance and his part in designing the Social Security System.

C. Canby Balderston, 1942-1954

C. Canby Balderston’s most significant contribution was the construction of the first building for the Wharton School, Dietrich Hall. Wharton faculty, staff, and students had long been waiting for a building of their own, and it was Balderston who spearheaded a fundraising campaign to make the new construction possible.

Alfred H. Williams, 1939-1941

A protégé of Willits, Alfred H. Williams had chaired the Geography and Industry Department and the School’s Curriculum Committee prior to being named dean. Despite a very promising future at the Wharton School, his tenure lasted only two years when he left to become president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank.

Joseph H. Willits, 1933-1939

During his administration, Joseph H. Willits emphasized the importance of economic research and its application to the affairs of business. By raising the standards for faculty and fostering the pursuit of academic business research, Willits helped further Wharton’s reputation as a prestigious institution of scholarly research.

Emory R. Johnson, 1919-1933

Emory R. Johnson brought depth to Wharton’s programs by requiring professional specialization among faculty and students and, for the first time, organizing faculty into academic departments and subject groups. Johnson also brought the MBA program, once a part of the University curriculum, under Wharton’s control.

William C. McClellan, 1916-1919

William C. McClellan worked closely with University trustees to raise the stature of the School within the University and secure continued support from outside benefactors.

Roswell C. McCrea, 1912-1916

Under Roswell C. McCrea’s leadership, the Wharton faculty continued its study of social problems and strengthened ties with the City of Philadelphia’s government administrators, who relied upon Wharton faculty for their expertise.

Contact: For media inquiries, contact a Wharton Media Relations staff member.


Wharton School Dean on Leadership, Diversity
Bloomberg TV | March 9, 2023

‘Indians add real value across sectors globally’
The Times of India | January 21, 2023

Influencers with Andy Serwer: Erika James
Yahoo! Finance | September 29, 2022

How a prepared leader plans for crises
MSNBC’s Morning Joe | September 26, 2022

Wharton’s Erika James on Managing Through Today’s Crises, Preparing for Future Ones
Bloomberg TV | June 14, 2022

‘There’s a long way to go in gender equity,’ says the Wharton School’s Erika James
CNBC’s Squawk on the Street | March 23, 2022

The 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance: Erika James
Barron’s | April 1, 2022

Wharton’s Dean James on Leading Through Crisis
The Wall Street Journal | September 27, 2021

Dean Erika James on Whether You Should Get Your MBA
theSkimm’s 9 to 5ish Podcast | August 18, 2021

Wharton Is First Elite M.B.A. Program to Enroll More Women Than Men
The Wall Street Journal | July 28, 2021

The 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance: Erika James
Barron’s | April 9, 2021

Be Well: Leading with Purpose with Neil Blumenthal, Ursula Burns & Erika James Washington Post | January 28, 2021

Who Taught Wharton’s Business School Dean Some Important Life Lessons
Wall Street Journal | January 16, 2021

The Best Books of 2020
Bloomberg | December 9, 2020

At Wharton, a New Leader Confronts the Culture Wars
New York Times | November 20, 2020

Diversity and Inclusion: Turning Promises into Results
CNBC | November 13, 2020

Dean Erika James on “This is Working”
LinkedIn News | September 23, 2020

“Innovation comes from diverse populations”
Globes Online | September 16, 2020

Bringing crisis management ideas to the oldest US business school
Financial Times | August 30, 2020

New Wharton Business Dean Says Lack Of Diversity Stems From A Lack Of Prioritizing
NPR’s All Things Considered | July 23, 2020

Black woman begins history-making job as dean of prestigious school
Good Morning America | July 1, 2020

Wharton’s Erika James, first female dean: ‘Gender is the least of what I have to offer’
Philadelphia Inquirer | March 2, 2020

Meet Erika James, the first woman to be appointed dean of the Wharton School
CNBC Make It | February 27, 2020

The prestigious Wharton business school’s new dean will be first woman and person of color in its nearly 140-year history
CNN | February 27, 2020

Wharton Names First Female Dean
Wall Street Journal | February 27, 2020