Starting next school year, students strolling around campus will no longer be greeted by Reed College Vice President and Treasurer Lorraine Arvin’s two, smiling golden retrievers. On October 5, Reed College President Audrey Bilger announced that Arvin, who has worked at Reed since 2014, will retire in August 2021. During her time at Reed, Arvin was involved in a handful of important projects including the construction of Trillium residence hall, and, according to Bilger, she “has played a significant role in the college’s response to this pandemic and related issues.”
Before coming to Reed, Arvin, who received her Ph.D. in Education from Loyola University Chicago, served as the Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration & Treasurer of the University of Chicago. In 2014, Arvin decided to move to Oregon for personal reasons, and she discovered that Reed was searching for a Chief Financial Officer. In light of her prior experience working in higher education, Reed offered Arvin a position at the college the week she moved to Oregon, and she happily accepted.
“I was very much attracted by the college’s academic reputation,” Arvin said. “I felt really lucky that this position opening up just aligned with my timing of moving to Oregon.”
As Reed’s Vice President and Treasurer, Arvin oversees a number of different aspects of the college’s operations, which include the college’s endowment, long-term financial planning, human resources, facilities services, environmental health and safety, and risk management. According to Arvin, juggling all of these diverse responsibilities has, at times, necessitated a “24/7 engagement” with her work. Despite her busy schedule, she has found her job deeply rewarding.
“Having the privilege of working in an intellectual community is really rewarding,” Arvin said. “That combined with the dedication of the faculty and the staff to the mission [of the college] and to the students… those are the pieces that I’ve found most rewarding, and they enter into my work in various ways.”
But the position has also presented Arvin with challenges, in part because she oversees so many different aspects of the college’s operations. According to Arvin, in contrast to more corporate environments, Reed’s administrative decision-making processes are deeply collaborative. While Arvin stressed that collaboration is essential to producing good outcomes for the college, she noted that it could, at times, be very time consuming.
“I’ve worked more collaboratively at Reed college than I have at any other time in my career,” Arvin said. “Collaboration leads to better decisions and outcomes and is very necessary. But it’s very time consuming to do it right. That’s how we all work together and make the best decisions, but it just requires a lot of time, a lot of meetings, a lot of individual conversations on every given manner.”
During her time at Reed, Arvin spearheaded several major facility improvement projects, including the construction of the new Trillium residence hall and renovations to the cross-canyon residence halls. She has also been involved in guiding important leadership transitions in the business office and facilities services, as well as working with the Board of Directors to create the new position of Chief Investment Officer—currently held by Erik Bernhardt—to oversee the college’s endowment.
Arvin specifically pointed to three accomplishments that she feels most proud of over her six-and-a-half year tenure at Reed: her involvement in the Trillium project, her work in human resources, and her role in setting long-term financial plans for the college. Arvin oversaw the construction of the Trillium residence hall, which was completed in 2019 and houses up to 180 students.
“Leading the Trillium project brought me a lot of satisfaction,” Arvin said. “Any time you get the opportunity, in my position and other positions, [to] get involved in building a new building, that’s a real opportunity… Buildings are tangible, and a lot of the other work I do is not as tangible, it’s not something you see.”
Arvin also sees her work in human resources and staff hirings as particularly impactful for the long-term well-being of the Reed community.
“Bringing talent to Reed, because that’s what really survives beyond me,” Arvin said. “Helping to develop a team, and helping others to develop their teams… those things survive people, if they really become part of the fabric of how people work.”
Finally, Arvin pointed to her work in financial planning as one of her major accomplishments. She is proud of her role in setting longer-term financial plans for the college with college leadership and trustees as well as working to improve business practices.
“Trying to continue to make sure we’re really implementing and conducting business at the level of best practices, I think that’s really important,” Arvin said.
But 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to the Reed community, and as the Vice President & Treasurer of the college, Arvin has been heavily involved in discussions regarding Reed’s financial plans. As the Quest reported last week, the pandemic has strained the college’s reserves, causing Reed to face a $10 million operating deficit heading into fiscal year 2021.
“The pandemic has been so challenging in every respect for every single person, both personally and professionally,” Arvin said. “We had to set up a lot of new procedures and processes to work remotely, to adjust to conditions on campus for staff who had to work on campus, and that’s been challenging.”
According to Arvin, one of the major difficulties for the college has been making decisions in the face of extreme uncertainty. “Responding to constantly changing conditions, with uncertainties, has been a new reality,” Arvin said. “You just have to be really, really flexible.”
Despite these challenges, Arvin feels optimistic about Reed’s financial future, and she stressed that two priorities have guided her own decisions as Vice President and Treasurer throughout the pandemic: safely delivering the best academic program possible for students, and maintaining a sense of community.
“Financially, Reed is fortunate that we do have more resources than some colleges and universities,” Arvin said. “We’ve also been conservative with our finances… so we’ve set aside some reserves. We have wanted to take a measured approach with the finances, and [doing] what is best for the academic program and students is going to yield the best long-term results for everyone. I feel confident that Reed will in the future make good decisions regarding the finances [of the college].”
Arvin will be retiring from the college next August, and she hopes to settle down in Hood River. Since graduating from university, Arvin has spent the last 42 years of her life working, and she decided to retire from Reed to spend more time with her family and friends and explore the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest.
“I have another chapter of my life that is calling me,” Arvin said. “But I look forward to staying connected with Reed… I’ve got really strong relationships with a number of faculty and staff and colleagues, [so] I don’t plan on being a stranger.”