During the summer of 2014, Dr. Lori E. Varlotta became the 22nd president of Hiram College. She is the institution’s first female president.
Dr. Varlotta and the leadership team she has assembled have made visible strides both on and beyond the Hiram campus. Under her leadership, the College has celebrated many firsts and broken records in key areas. On June 30, 2016, for example, Hiram recorded the largest fundraising year in its 167-year history, receiving $9.3 million in (cash) gifts. Several months later, in February 2017, Hiram received its largest single cash gift of $2.1 million. And, by fiscal year-end 2017, she and the development team logged in the second largest fundraising year at $8.85 million. Her laser focus in monitoring revenues and expenses in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 also led the College to its strongest financial position in recent history.
Now in her fourth year, Varlotta continues to work with colleagues across campus to implement the enrollment growth plan that she and others have designed specifically for Hiram. That plan is fueled by several new programs, including the impressive Tech and Trek mobile initiative that integrates 21st-century technology with Hiram’s enduring liberal arts curriculum. The first of its kind in Ohio, Tech and Trek (link here) issues an iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and keyboard bundle to each of the College’s full-time, traditional college students in Fall 2017. Another initiative launched in Fall 2017 is the 3-year degree pathway (link here) in 20 academic programs. Other changes such as the introduction of new academic majors (such as Integrative Exercise Science and Public Health) and athletic programs have also been put in place (such as Men’s Volleyball and Cheer/STUNT). Also, reconfigurations in the Professional and Graduate Studies (PGS) side of the College are yielding positive outcomes in the Community College Partnerships and other adult learners’ programs. Together, these additions and modifications have helped to usher in a 28% year-over-year increase in new student enrollment for Fall 2017. This increase comes on top of last year’s 14% increase.
Perhaps Dr. Varlotta’s broadest campus impact can be seen in the shared governance structures she revitalized shortly after she arrived. For the first time in the College’s history, the faculty, staff, and students have respective structures in place that allow them to participate in relevant decision-making processes. These shared governance entities have played a role in identifying and promoting the academic differentiators that will set Hiram apart in the recruitment and retention of students. Bodies such as these have also weighed into the drafting, vetting, and endorsement of the recently finalized Strategic Plan (link here).
On some campuses, academic prioritization and institutional branding can lead to polarization. At Hiram, however, constituent groups (from the Board of Trustees to the students) have worked positively and productively to make joint recommendations about the academic differentiators that they believe can and should be used to exemplify Hiram’s emerging model of the New Liberal Arts (link here). The buy-in and participation has been wide and deep—no small feat for any campus.
Before coming to Hiram College, Dr. Varlotta spent 11 years at California State University, Sacramento. At the time of her departure, she served as senior vice president for planning, enrollment management, and student affairs, where she led 31 departments in the areas of enrollment, student life, retention, educational equity, and NCAA Division I athletics.
Dr. Varlotta’s 32-year career in higher education administration extends beyond any single campus. Several years ago, Dr. Varlotta participated in the design and implementation of the country’s first voluntary system of higher education accountability, a project called College Portrait. She is frequently invited to regional and national conferences to address pressing issues in higher education, such as retention and graduation, planning and budgeting, and transparency and accountability. She has published extensively on the topics of higher education assessment and accountability; student success and graduation; health and wellness; and community, identity, and service.
A proud Pittsburgh native and first-generation college student, Dr. Varlotta earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana), a Master of Science degree in cultural foundations of education from Syracuse University (New York), and an interdisciplinary Doctor of Philosophy degree in educational leadership and feminist philosophy from Miami University (Ohio).