James grew up in Kearns, Utah. He attended Kearns High School and then was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Argentina. After returning to Utah, he attended Salt Lake Community College and then Westminster College in Salt Lake City where he graduated both institutions with honors. In college, he began working for the Diné Policy Institute, a public policy institute based in the Navajo Nation. After graduating from Westminster College, he moved to Arizona so he could work there full-time. James returned to Utah to attend the Master of Arts in Community Leadership program at Westminster College. His research focused on poverty and living wage policies. Immediately after, he started a doctorate program in the Sociology of Labor Markets and Social Policy at Utah State University where he is working on his dissertation research. James is a Diversity Fellow in Sociology an Ethnic Studies at Salt Lake Community College and sits on three boards of directors.