Student Voice


February 3, 2023



Alumni Spotlight: Ann Lawton

February 14, 2017

One lecturer at UW-River Falls has helped people with emotional and physical ailments by using visual expression and also teaches a class that helps students learn how to do the same.

Ann Lawton is a lecturer of art at UWRF, teaching art classes ranging from Introduction to Visual Art (ART 100) to 2D Design Foundation (Art 121). A licensed art therapist, Lawton also teaches an Introduction to Art Therapy (Art 292) class, teaching students how to use art to help treat mental illnesses. She has worked at UWRF since 2011.

Growing up in New London, Wisconsin, she described herself as an “angst teenager,” wanting to move as far away from home as possible to attend college. Nearly four hours away from her home on the other side of the state, she decided to attend UWRF.

“It just turned out to be an amazing perchance experienced that I was welcomed here and flourished here,” Lawton said.

Enjoying the beauty of the campus, she was part of her residence hall’s council and participated in Art Society. She said that the vast amount of activities offered on campus was one reason why she enjoyed her experience as a student, and that there are many more activities to choose from today than when she was a student.

While Lawton wanted to become an artist, she didn’t know exactly what to do with her education. She then took an Introduction to Art Therapy class, and that’s when she realized that she could use art to help others.

“It was one of those epiphany moments,” she said. “This is exactly want I wanted to do.”

After enjoying her class, she later minored in psychology on top of her art major. After graduation, she attended Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, where she earned a master’s degree in art therapy.

As a registered art therapist, she uses visual expression to help heal those who have mental health problems, helping a variety of people heal emotionally and physically through art. In addition to her job as a lecturer, she holds group art therapy sessions with the Student Health and Counseling Services office, and she has a private practice with clients throughout the St. Croix Valley.

One thing Lawton said she enjoys about UWRF is the amount of intimacy that she can engage in with her classes and fellow faculty, being able to help her students and getting to know them personally. She enjoyed her ability to interact with her professors as a student, such as fellow Art Professor Bernice Ficek-Swenson and Psychology Chair Travis Tubre, both of whom are now her colleagues.

“To me, it feels to me like a home away from home,” she said, “and now that it is my home, things have come full circle.”

As for advice to current students, Lawton said that students should work hard and not be afraid to fail. She also suggests that students follow their own paths to success. Lawton said that she feels grateful for her time at UWRF and looks forward to the future.