Office of the President

Lori E. Varlotta

Welcome to Cal Lutheran!

I am so glad that you’re here and welcome your interest in California Lutheran University and the wide range of academic, social and career development opportunities our exceptional campus has to offer.

Lori E. Varlotta Over the past 35 years, I have been afforded opportunities to serve college campuses throughout the United States. I have worked and lived on both coasts and in places in between. Throughout my many moves, I have held firm to the belief one’s present-day sense of place is often — and in my case, positively and proudly — shaped by where one starts. 

I am a first-generation college graduate who grew up in a working-class neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A product of hard-working parents and of Italian immigrant grandparents, I’ve carried with me the lessons I learned from my family and my community. 

I only recently became Cal Lutheran’s eighth president. Already, however, I sense the university’s place — marked by the main campus at Thousand Oaks with its liberal arts and science tradition; four satellite locations in Southern California and a Lutheran seminary in Berkeley — uniquely positions it within the higher-education landscape. 

One particular spot on the Thousand Oaks’ academic corridor symbolizes the intersection between Cal Lutheran’s historically-rich past and its bright future. 

Look one way and you see the new Swenson Science Center, aptly dubbed “science on display.” This $34 million facility ensures students have access to 11 research labs and eight teaching labs. Its presence emphasizes Cal Lutheran’s commitment to educate and train the health-care professionals, engineers, chemists and scientific researchers who will be on the forefront of innovation. 

Nearby is a recently configured outdoor space that helps students and faculty stay connected during this most unusual Fall semester. Designed as a learning and study area, complete with technology and other classroom amenities, it is a tribute to the nimbleness of Cal Lutheran when unexpected challenges arise. 

Turn your head in the other direction and you glimpse a farmhouse that is more than a century old. The Pedersons, a founding family of the 1890 Norwegian Colony, had this Sears Roebuck catalogue house built on their ranch in 1913. To prosper, the Pedersons diversified their work by adding 15,000 laying hens to a farm that produced alfalfa, hay, tomatoes and grapefruit. In 1957, Richard Pederson donated 130 acres to build the campus which now spans 225 acres. 

Far beyond what we can see from the main campus in Thousand Oaks, is the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) in Berkeley, CA. Did you know that PLTS, the only Lutheran seminary in the entire Western United States, is a vibrant part of our University? We are fortunate to have PLTS play an important role in extending our outreach in equity, inclusion, spiritual and theological reflection, social analysis, and ecological healing. 

A sense of place is shaped not only by the buildings that stand upon it, but also by the natural environment and early history that surround it. Long before this land was farmed, it supported the Chumash people who created and maintained a complex trading network between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains that sustained them for hundreds of years. The work ethic and resourcefulness, exuded by centuries of Chumash people and generations of Pedersons, provide a solid foundation for those of us who inhabit this special space today. 

With a legacy like this, it is no wonder Cal Lutheran’s mission is to educate leaders for a global society who are strong in character and judgment, confident in their identity and vocation, and committed to service and justice. It’s a mission that reinforces values and attributes that endure even while the world changes at record speed. 

I share with you my sense of Cal Lutheran so you might envision your personal place here as a student, a faculty or staff member, a donor or a friend. 

Visit and, when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, please come explore our main campus and our centers. I think you will understand why I believe Cal Lutheran is among the very places that can help mend and enrich the world.

Lori E. Varlotta, PhD