In my short time as dean, I have met many individuals who make up the Wharton community and am overwhelmed by the warm welcome I have received. It is clear that Wharton is the leader in business education in large part due to the support that our graduates give back to the School as alumni. This largesse comes in many forms — investing in programmatic initiatives, creating scholarships for students, funding capital projects, and providing annual support to the Wharton Fund. But the most significant way our alumni give back is through their dedicated commitment to staying connected to the School in myriad ways.

As I enter the first year of my deanship at Wharton, we also enter the final year of the School’s More Than Ever campaign, which has the ambitious goal of raising $1 billion to strengthen areas of strategic importance. The Future of Finance maintains Wharton’s reputation as “The Finance School”; Analytics at Wharton keeps Wharton on the cutting edge of the business world by capitalizing on data-driven insights; and a focus on Entrepreneurship and Innovation enables the School’s researchers and students to incubate ideas that will shape the future.

The overwhelming support we have received has turned vision into reality. During this election season, Penn Wharton Budget Model, the School’s nonpartisan, research-based initiative, has engaged in extensive analyses of presidential candidates’ proposed plans to solve pressing political issues. PWBM is just one of six programs that make up Analytics at Wharton, a hub that congregates existing academic centers focused solely on finding new ways that data can support decision-making, and an example of our campaign’s achievement to date.

Over the course of the campaign, but no more so than recently, our alumni raised their hands as advocates for student welfare, addressing concerns about challenges our students are facing as a result of the current climate of uncertainty.

Recent landmark scholarship gifts will enable even more international students to learn at Wharton, solidifying the School’s position as an institution that welcomes students from all corners of the globe. We work to make a Wharton education truly accessible for any student who demonstrates the talent to be here. By focusing our efforts on creating scholarships, fellowships, and funds to support the student experience, we create a student cohort made up of increasingly promising and diverse future leaders each year. While we have come this far, reaching 92 percent of our billion-dollar goal, we are not done yet. Another campaign milestone we are dedicated to achieving is the goal we set for student aid, and we have faith that our alumni will meet this in the coming year.

To see the Wharton community, in the midst of global crisis, rise to the occasion — with alumni engagement, financial support for our students, mentorships, internships, and, not least, an outpouring of concern for the welfare of one another — has been heartening. It is my hope to capitalize on this moment and continue to fortify this community to make Wharton even stronger. Finally, it is the greatest honor of my professional life to serve as the Dean of the Wharton School. I take over this custodial responsibility from my predecessor, Geoff Garrett, whose effective leadership during his time here has positioned the School for success in the final year of the More Than Ever campaign and beyond. I am filled with excitement about what we will achieve together.


Erika H. James is dean, Reliance Professor of Management and Private Enterprise, and professor of management at the Wharton School.

Published as “The Remarkable Impact of Wharton’s Alumni” in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of  Wharton Magazine.