Mary Anna Thornton

Dissertation Fellowship, 1989

Immediately after earning her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, Mary Anna worked as a social science researcher at Northwestern and as an adjunct instructor at a variety of colleges in the Chicago area. While raising three boys, she switched to K12 education and spent over 20 years as an administrator and teacher. During that time, she played key roles in the development of two unique and successful independent schools: Quest Academy in Palatine, Illinois, a K-8 school focused on the education of gifted and talented students, and Conserve School, in Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin, a residential semester school for high school juniors focused on college preparatory academics, environmental education, and outdoor education. While overseeing academic programs at Conserve School, Mary Anna worked in partnership with the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where she was an adjunct professor in curriculum and instruction and supervised graduate fellows in environmental education. During this time, she also developed an interest in online education, earning a master’s degree in educational technology from Michigan State University and developing web-based components of the Conserve School program. Currently, Mary Anna is the Associate Dean of General Studies at Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In addition to her administrative work as a dean in general education, Mary Anna teaches anthropology courses at Western and is overseeing a new online expansion initiative.