Lori E. Varlotta

About Lori E. Varlotta

Lori E. VarlottaLori E. Varlotta, PhD, became California Lutheran University’s eighth president on September 1, 2020.

She is the first female president in Cal Lutheran’s 61-year history, and she comes to the university as an established leader with broad experience in change management and curriculum reform, student success and inclusion, strategic planning and budgeting, and friend-raising and fundraising.

Varlotta considers her 35 years working at mission-driven colleges and universities a calling, not a career. When she accepted the Cal Lutheran presidency, she said the university’s mission 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” spoke volumes to her.

Varlotta took the helm at Cal Lutheran at a pivotal time, when a global pandemic and the racial and social inequities crisis are changing the landscape of higher education. Amid these realities, she aims to lead a campuswide effort to make Cal Lutheran a vibrant and positive force in the lives of all who work, study, live and learn at any of the institution’s sites. Moreover, she expects Cal Lutheran will become a beacon of light in the region and a force of good in the world.

Before her arrival at Cal Lutheran, Varlotta served as the 22nd president of Hiram College in Ohio, where she was the first female president in its 170-year existence. At the time of her departure, the Hiram College Board of Trustees bestowed upon her the title of president emerita.

During her six years at Hiram, she worked with colleagues to design and implement changes that significantly benefited the institution. Most notably, Varlotta led processes that sparked nationally recognized initiatives in high-impact, integrative learning and mindful technology. Collectively, these changes were dubbed the New Liberal Arts, and they positioned Hiram as a higher education leader in designing and implementing systemic change. Many of these innovations were brought to life via the record-breaking fundraising campaigns Varlotta and the development staff consecutively logged between 2015 and 2020. As a champion of shared governance, she also helped the campus build structures that facilitated faculty, staff, and student input into decision-making.

Prior to coming to Hiram, Varlotta spent 11 years at California State University, Sacramento, ultimately serving as senior vice president of planning, enrollment management and student affairs. She led 31 departments, including the areas of retention, diversity, educational equity, and NCAA Division I athletics. She also held senior leadership roles at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the University of San Francisco.