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University of La Verne Names 19th President

19th President of University of La Verne, Dr. Pardis Mahdavi in the Abraham Campus Center.

The University of La Verne Board of Trustees announced the selection of Pardis Mahdavi, PhD, as the university’s 19th president today. She will assume the presidency on August 15.

Mahdavi brings more than 20 years of scholarship, experience, and leadership in higher education. She most recently served as the provost and executive vice president at the University of Montana, a public flagship research university in Missoula.    

“We have found an extraordinary leader,” said Anthony Revier ’93, chair of the University of La Verne Board of Trustees. “Dr. Mahdavi exceeds the community’s criteria for the executive position as an inclusive, forward-thinking, and experienced leader with a track record of success in developing relationships, innovative planning, identifying new resources, and advancing organizational efficiency. She has the vision, energy, and strategic leadership experience necessary to move the University of La Verne forward.” 

Mahdavi was selected after an extensive national search by WittKiefer that yielded more than 70 initial candidates. A search advisory committee led by Trustee Valerie Romero narrowed the robust pool of diverse candidates down to four, who met with more than 40 stakeholders in a confidential forum. She said the goal was to bring them all together to put the past into perspective, take a clear look at the future, and determine collectively who would be the the best fit for the university.

“What really stood out during that session was the good communication.” said Romero. “Dr. Mahdavi has the skills, experience, leadership, and creativity that are going to help the university arrive to the next levels on all fronts. It’s an exciting time.”

As president, Mahdavi will lead the Southern California historic private, nonprofit institution with five colleges, several regional campuses, robust online offerings, and more than 89,000 alumni worldwide. She said the university’s core values — lifelong learning, ethical reasoning, civic and community engagement, and diversity and inclusivity — along with its transformation over the years are closely aligned with her own.   

“When I look at the trajectory of the University of La Verne, how it has adapted to all kinds of learners and how it really embodies the best tradition of access and excellence, and in preparing learners to really uphold democracy and engage in social transformation in the way that we would want a 21st century higher education institution to do, I am honored to join the community and excited about the work and collaborations ahead to serve our students,”  Mahdavi said.  

Mahdavi previously held deanships at Arizona State University, the University of Denver and Pomona College, along with several leadership positions at Pomona College. She is a distinguished author, public speaker, and anthropologist. She has five single authored books, two edited volumes, and another single authored book to be released later this summer. Her research interests include gendered labor, human trafficking, migration, human rights, and public health in the context of changing global and political structures. She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, noted as one of Arizona’s Most Intriguing Women of the Decade and a former fellow of the Social Sciences Research Council, the American Council on Learned Societies, Google Ideas, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. 

Mahdavi holds a philosophy doctorate and master’s degree in sociomedical sciences and anthropology, along with a Master of International Affairs in human rights from Columbia University. She has a bachelor’s degree in diplomacy and world affairs from Occidental College. 

Mahdavi grew up in Southern California and has three children.  

She succeeds Devorah Lieberman, who became the first female president of the University of La Verne in 2011 and will retire this summer after twelve years of successfully leading the university. 


The University of La Verne is a private, nonprofit, comprehensive institution founded in 1891 on four core values: lifelong learning, ethical reasoning, civic and community engagement, and diversity and inclusivity. Located in Southern California, the university is a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, serving students on the historic La Verne campus, regional campuses, and online. It is nationally recognized and has consistently held U.S. News & World Report National University, Best Value Schools, Top Performers on Social Mobility, and Best Online Programs rankings.