Cal Lutheran names dean of arts, sciences

Political scientist has studied minorities and women

Jessica Lavariega Monforti, who currently serves as the chair of the Department of Political Science at Pace University in New York City, will start July 1. 

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Feb. 28, 2017) An expert in the political behavior of women, immigrants and communities of color will be the next dean of California Lutheran University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Jessica Lavariega Monforti, who currently serves as the chair of the Department of Political Science at Pace University in New York City, will start July 1. She will succeed Joan Griffin, who will step down after 10 years to teach full time.

“Dr. Lavariega Monforti is an award-winning teacher and accomplished scholar, and she has a proven track record as a strong, creative and collaborative leader,” said Cal Lutheran Provost Leanne Neilson. “Her passion for working with first-generation students and diverse populations fits well with the university’s goals.”

A first-generation college student, Lavariega Monforti earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida State University and a master’s degree and doctorate in political science from The Ohio State University. She received Ohio State’s Hispanic Student Leadership Award in 2000 and was a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow.

Hooked on research since taking a Research Methods class as an undergraduate, Lavariega Monforti loves using data to predict and solve problems. Her extensive research centers around notions of power, or lack thereof, among women, immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities. She has studied the forces that shape political opinions and the impact of gender, race and ethnicity on public policy. She has received grants from the National Science Foundation and the American Political Science Association.

She co-authored the 2015 book “Living the Dream: New Immigration Policies and the Lives of Undocumented Latino Youth” and the 2006 book “Black and Latino/a Politics: Issues in Political Development in the United States.”

Lavariega Monforti was hired by Pace as department chair in 2015. She previously served as the associate dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Center for Survey Research at the former University of Texas–Pan American. She started a Latina/o/x student success program and reinvented the annual research conference for the university system. She has also taught at Texas Christian University and Mercer University in Georgia. She has received multiple awards as a researcher, teacher and mentor.

Cal Lutheran is a selective university based in Thousand Oaks, California, with additional locations in Woodland Hills, Westlake Village, Oxnard and Berkeley. With an enrollment of about 4,200 students, Cal Lutheran offers undergraduate and graduate programs through its College of Arts and Sciences, School of Management, Graduate School of Education, Graduate School of Psychology, Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals program and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. For more information, visit