Ripon College provided safe haven for Susan Frikken ’90 to prepare for life

When applying for college, Susan Frikken ’90 of Madison, Wisconsin, felt overwhelmed and anxious and was the first in her family to attend college. She applied very late and didn’t even visit campus before she “simply showed up” for the first day of class.

“The small campus and professor/student ratio helped me come out of my anxiety shell; I never felt overwhelmed,” Frikken says. Ripon allowed Frikken to go deep into her anthropology major and environmental biology minor and develop a love of the natural world.

Frikken says that her time at Ripon was full of “little moments, big memories.” Workouts at the former Storzer Gymnasium and the dance company kept her sane, helped her to de-stress and kept her strong, Frikken says. The dance company allowed her to “explore my creativity and joy in movement. I cried my eyes out regularly in the year after graduation because I missed it so much.”

Frikken has kept in touch with many people from Ripon, including her close friends Scottie Nichols Girouard ’89 and Shelley Adriance ’91 whom she sees regularly and whose children she considers nieces and nephews. Since graduating, she also has met and connected with other Ripon alumni, some of whom graduated in the ’60s and some who graduated in the ’00s and later. “When you learn someone is from Ripon, it facilitates a special bond,” Frikken says.

Ripon College gave Frikken “life skills, the ability to engage thoughtfully and intelligently about the wide world, and a lifelong community of friends,” she says. Frikken’s studies at Ripon prepared her for a variety of career endeavors. She has worked in environmental education, as a ballroom dance instructor, at the nonprofit Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, D.C., and then as a massage therapist.

“Eventually, the science geek in me pushed to return to school at UW-Madison for my doctorate in physical therapy (DPT),” Frikken says.

She now owns Yahara Therapy LLC which offers massage therapy and physical therapy. She specializes in posture, alignment, conservation scoliosis management, soft tissue work, and balance and fall prevention. “My goal is to incorporate arts and nature into therapeutic practice, helping to change the way of health and wellness care in our country,” Frikken says.

She also is adjunct faculty in the UW-Madison DPT program and is featured in the video “Ballroom Balance” created by UW-Madison.

She also co-founded the Madison Area Wellness Collective, now called Be Well Madison.

Of her rich and varied career, Frikken says she “feels like a representation of my good fortune to have a loving and valuable community, which includes Ripon College. What I get to do every day is not work, but a culmination and continuation of the education and experiences and people.

“I feel that Ripon, along with my family, was my foundation and springboard for a rich life, one measured by experiences and relationships.”
(Photo: Susan Frikken, right, with her wife, Deb Hanrahan, left.)

Jillian Heidenreich ’22
Monroe, Wisconsin


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