Office of the President

Lori E. Varlotta

Welcome to Cal Lutheran!

January 2022

Dear students, faculty, staff, and friends,

Lori E. Varlotta

Welcome to the second half of the 2021-22 academic year. It gives me great pleasure to extend a warm welcome to the 100 new students, faculty, and staff who have just joined the Cal Lutheran community and to welcome back the vast majority of you. I am glad you are all here!

In these early days of 2022, we have re-opened the University amidst the ongoing changes that are now a part of the new normal. Shaped significantly by the impacts of the pandemic, we now quickly analyze the most relevant and reliable data we are able to access, knowing all the while it is partial and dynamic. This increasingly common-place practice hammers home a line from my one of my favorite ELCA papers, Rooted and Open. “Because the world is always larger and more mysterious than the lens through which it is known, intellectual humility nurtures genuine curiosity and an interdisciplinary search for truth.”

Yes, the quest for truth is as complicated, non-linear, and humbling as ever.

Fully aware that we cannot claim to know definitively what will happen next, members of our Cal Lutheran community are making decisions that move us forward. Many of those decisions have helped us keep our community relatively safe for almost two years and maintain a continuity of learning that we can no longer take for granted. Other decisions have allowed us to make significant changes to university systems and structures.

In almost all cases, our forward momentum has been fueled not by taking the most obvious route or the path less traveled. It has been achieved by carving out the base for a  new path . . . a “third path.” The third path is neither fully laid nor an equal-part compromise between two clearly delineated paths; it’s an emergent one that we co-create or build together. The third path transcends previous ones. It moves us closer toward a common good, even if that destination is never fully reached.

I see California Lutheran University’s promise as a surveyor, developer, navigator, and traveler of the Third Path as a vital part of who we are today during this new normal and who we aspire to be tomorrow. Here are four areas where we are carving out a Third Path. Please help us chart any or all of the paths below and the many others we will build together. Then, join us on the journey that incudes both clear and open parts and bumpy and obscured ones as well.


1. Engaging a Combined Strategic Planning and Master Planning (SP/MP) Process

Over the coming months and well into the next two years, we will be working with a consulting firm called Credo. Aided by its counsel, we will design and implement integrated strategic and master planning processes.  Last fall, Credo consultants met on separate occasions with the Cabinet, the Board of Regents, and more than two hundred faculty and staff who accepted the open invitation to participate in Community Day. During each of those engagements, participants were invited to share ideas and recommendations for the new plans. This Strategic Planning website provides updates on the planning process itself and on the findings and recommendations that are emerging from it. Please check it regularly to learn about upcoming opportunities for engagement.


2. Integrating and Institutionalizing DEI Structures and Systems

We continue to make strides in our DEI work. Our inaugural Chief Diversity Officer, Cristallea Buchanan, has been meeting regularly with the University’s newly formed Core DEI team that includes the following colleagues:

  • Director of Faculty Development and Inclusive Excellence: Dr. Lorri Santamaría
  • Director of Athletics: Ms. Holly Roepke
  • Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion & Engagement in the College of Arts & Sciences, Director of Ethnic and Race Studies, and Associate Professor: Dr. Lorena Muñoz
  • Associate Provost for Global Engagement: Dr. Christina Sanchez
  • Assistant Director of Student Life for Cultural Engagement and Inclusion: Ms. Sarah Garcia

Recently, the Core Team adopted its official charter; it is posted on the new DEI website that is currently under construction. It also announced the rollout of the University’s comprehensive bias reporting system. Moving forward, the Team will join forces with affinity groups across the University to plan recognitions and celebrations that are a part of Black History Month, Latinx Heritage Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and more. At the same time, the Core Team will continue to provide counsel to the Cabinet on policies, protocols, and practices aimed at strengthening the University’s sense of inclusivity. As part of its  counsel, the Team will research campus climate surveys and make recommendations about which instruments are well suited to assess the Cal Lutheran environment. Members of the Core Team welcome your thoughts and ideas about our DEI plans and programs.


3. Revising the General Education (GE) Curriculum

The general education curriculum is at the core of the undergraduate experience. At Cal Lutheran, we expect our core curriculum to (a) focus as much on how to learn as what to learn, (b) provide hands-on opportunities to translate theory into practice, and, (c) be interdisciplinary in nature. To design our next iteration of a highly relevant, rigorous, and engaging GE curriculum, the University formed a Task Force  in summer 2021. This General Education Curriculum Task Force has worked diligently for months and will soon present to the faculty-at-large and the Provost two or three viable models of GE that Cal Lutheran should consider. College faculty and academic leaders will then determine which model is most appropriate for our students at this time. Details about this important work can be found on the Task Force website.


4. Identifying Curricular and Co-Curricular Differentiators

To position Cal Lutheran as a destination university, we must more clearly differentiate ourselves from other four-year colleges and universities in the state. The Task Force on Institutional Differentiation, co-led by Taiwo Ande, PhD, Senior Associate Provost, and Tom Hoener, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, is leading these efforts. Currently, these co-chairs are organizing and analyzing the data that came in from 1,400 (!) respondents to a recent survey. Using those responses plus additional focus-group data, this Task Force will forward to me (in late March) the curricular and co-curricular differentiators that they perceive set Cal Lutheran apart from peer institutions. We will use this list as a starting point for further investigation and development. More information about this important work can be found on the Differentiation Task Force web page.

We are living, learning, and leading in interesting times. The paths laid by those before us may not always be the most viable ones to lead us forward. We need to forge our own third path as we head out in any number of vital directions.

The invitation is a real one: let us chart and travel our third paths together.


Lori E. Varlotta, PhD