8th president of Cal Lutheran selected

Lori E. Varlotta will begin Sept. 1

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The first female president in Cal Lutheran’s 61-year history, Lori E. Varlotta is an established leader with broad experience in academic affairs, enrollment management, budget and planning, student affairs and fundraising.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – June 2, 2020) Lori E. Varlotta, the president of Hiram College in Ohio, will become the eighth president of California Lutheran University on Sept. 1.

The first female president in Cal Lutheran’s 61-year history, Varlotta is an established leader with broad experience in academic affairs, enrollment management, budget and planning, student affairs and fundraising. She is a routine contributor to national conversations on academic issues and has published extensively on topics ranging from diversity and inclusion to service and leadership to assessment and accountability. More recently, her research has focused on leading inclusive processes aimed at bringing systemic change to higher education.

As a first-generation college student, she recognizes, firsthand, the transformative power of education. Her commitment to the liberal arts and sciences was seeded during her own undergraduate years while majoring in philosophy and has only grown stronger over the years.

“For three-and-a-half decades, working at mission-driven colleges and universities has been a calling, not a career. And the mission at Cal Lutheran to educate leaders for a global society speaks volumes to me,” Varlotta said. “I am excited and humbled to join forces with faculty, staff, students, alumni and regents as we collectively move this fine institution to its next level of excellence.”

Varlotta comes to Cal Lutheran having served as president at Hiram since 2014. During her six years there, Varlotta worked with colleagues across campus to design and implement changes that benefit the institution as a whole and the students it serves. Most notably, Varlotta led processes that sparked nationally recognized initiatives in high-impact and integrative learning and mindful technology. And, as a champion of shared governance, she built structures that facilitate faculty, staff and student input into decision-making processes. 

Before coming to Hiram, Varlotta spent 11 years at Sacramento State, ultimately serving as senior vice president of planning, enrollment management and student affairs. She led 31 departments that included the areas of retention, educational equity and NCAA Division I athletics. She also held leadership roles at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and University of San Francisco. She has had significant successes in increasing diversity among students, faculty and staff.

A native of Pittsburgh, Varlotta earned a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Notre Dame, a Master of Science in cultural foundations of education from Syracuse University, and an interdisciplinary Doctor of Philosophy in educational leadership and feminist philosophy from Miami University in Ohio.

“With a distinguished career and a passion for excellence in all aspects of higher education, Dr. Varlotta is uniquely qualified to lead Cal Lutheran,” said Susie Lundeen-Smuck, chair of the Board of Regents and a 1988 alumna. “She stood out from the beginning of the search process as an energetic, creative and inspirational president, and we are thrilled that she will be steering this university into its next era.”

A 20-member committee that included regents, faculty, staff, students and alumni conducted the presidential search over the last seven months and more than 50 additional members of the Cal Lutheran community participated in the final round of interviews. The committee submitted its recommendation to the Board of Regents, which is the hiring authority for the president.

Chris Kimball, who has served as president since 2008, announced in October that he would be stepping down.

Cal Lutheran is a Hispanic-Serving Institution based in Thousand Oaks, California, with additional locations in Woodland Hills, Westlake Village, Oxnard, Santa Maria and Berkeley. With an enrollment of about 4,300 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 and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Members of the Cal Lutheran student body come from across the nation and around the world and represent a diversity of faiths and cultures. For more information, visit CalLutheran.edu.