BY Meghan MalasJuly 19, 2022, 1:22 PM
Gareth James, dean of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. (Courtesy Goizueta Business School.)
In the past few months, Gareth James estimates that he’s had more than 150 meetings with faculty, donors, alumni, parents, and universities leadership about his new role as dean of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. He was announced as the incoming dean in February, and formally took the post on July 1. Beyond feeling very optimistic about the school’s future, James says his new role as Goizueta’s dean also is exciting on a personal level.
“It feels like the university came along and handed me a set of keys for a BMW and said, ‘Hey, go drive it’ and I didn’t even have to pay for it,” says James, who spent 24 years at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, serving most recently as the school’s interim dean and deputy dean.. “Rather, they paid me to take it—and then I wiped away a little of the dirt and I realized it is not a BMW, it’s a Ferrari.”
Fortune spoke with James to find out more about his plans for the business school, including how online education fits into the picture.
Goizueta is a ‘quietly confident, high-quality’ school
“My belief is that reputation scores are going to continue to rise as the quality of not only Goizueta—but Emory as a university—goes up,” James says. “I would describe it as a quietly confident, high-quality university.”
One of the biggest differences between the two business schools where James has served is their size. Emory University’s business school undergraduate enrollment is about 850 students, while USC Marshall has 4,064 undergraduate students enrolled. However, the schools’ respective full-time MBA programs are closer in size. Goizueta’s full-time MBA classes consist of around 150 to 180 students, while USC Marshall has about 220 students in its full-time MBA class every year.
“I very much enjoyed my time at Marshall and I think it’s a great school, but it’s so large—especially the undergraduate population,” he says. “Goizueta is a good size, in my opinion, it’s large enough to have a good pool of high-quality students but small enough that it is easier to make adjustments and meet with the students.”
Goizueta’s in-person executive MBA program is ranked No. 23 on Fortune’s list of the best executive MBA programs.
“The quality of the students that are getting admitted here keeps going up and up each year, and the fraction of those students who are then going on to apply to Goizueta is increasing over time,” James says. He also cites the faculty and administrators as additional reasons for his optimism. Emory welcomed a new president, Gregory L. Fenves, in 2020. A new provost, Ravi Bellamkonda, also joined in 2021.
“The board of trustees, the president, the provost—they’re all very, very ambitious and I believe that Emory now has the resources and the will to move up as a university,” James says. “So that obviously impacts Goizueta as the base brand of the university goes up, but I think we can rise faster than Emory does.”
Goizueta’s location in Atlanta—the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S.—is also proving to be an advantage for students.
“The southeast is an incredibly vibrant and fast-growing area at the moment, and it is one of the top tech areas now,” James says. “Entertainment is massive, and real estate is another big area of development there—so there are so many opportunities because the region that we are sitting in is sort of exploding.”
How online education fits into Goizueta’s future
Goizueta currently offers an undergraduate degree program, a two-year full-time MBA, a one-year MBA, an evening MBA, an executive MBA, a master’s in business analytics, a master of analytical finance, a doctoral degree in business, and a portfolio of non-degree Emory Executive Education courses.
The school also announced an online executive MBA program in February, which will have its first cohort begin in Fall 2022.
“My expectation is that online is going to continue to grow in different ways and different places,” James says. “Everyone’s still trying to figure out the right long-term model.”
While James is a big fan of the pure online delivery format, he acknowledges it also has a lot of challenges. “The area that I’m actually most excited about, particularly in business schools, is the hybrid approach,” James says. “It doesn’t make sense for all programs, but it does for MBA programs.”
For professionals that live in a high-traffic metropolitan area like Atlanta, an MBA program that allows some flexibility with remote options, without sacrificing in-person networking experiences, may make all the difference.
“Some schools had already started moving in that direction before COVID, but I think now it is much easier for schools to access because, before the pandemic, a lot of faculty were resistant to an online learning environment,” James explains. “Now, they have discovered that they can not only successfully teach in that environment, but there are more opportunities to be innovative.”