Dr. Karen Manna joins as new visiting assistant professor in French studies

By Megan Loock
Elm Staff Writer

Washington College welcomes Dr. Karen Manna as a visiting assistant professor of French studies.

Originally from the Philadelphia area, she got her Bachelor of Arts at Penn State University with a double major in French and international business. However, she did not imagine teaching French after she received her undergraduate degree.

While Dr. Manna knew she “wanted to be involved in France and the French language,” she was unsure of which direction to go in. 

“When I went to Penn State, my favorite classes were my French classes,” she said, but there was still some lingering indecision after she graduated.

As a result, Dr. Manna became a stock broker at the company, Vanguard in Philadelphia.

After two  years, Dr. Manna decided to attend graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, where she obtained her Ph.D to teach French.

“I knew in my heart that I wanted to study French,” she said. “I knew on my first day of teaching, I said, ‘this is it, this is for me.’”

Before coming to WC, Dr. Manna taught at the small liberal arts college Bryn Mawr College,  in Philadelphia, John Hopkins University, and Loyola University — both of which are located within the Baltimore area.

Upon her departure from Loyola University, Dr. Manna moved from Maryland to take a teaching position at University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Okla., where she taught for six years until she ultimately decided to move back and take the open position at WC.

“I was really drawn to the small liberal arts college atmosphere,” she said. “I really love that personal interaction between the faculty and the students.”

Dr. Manna said that she was especially interested in working at WC because of its positive reputation in the liberal arts and humanities.

“For me, knowing this background and spending so much time in Maryland, and knowing it’s a small liberal arts college, I think that combination of the type of environment that it has and … the reputation that WC had, it really drew me to it,” she said.

Though her love for French started in her studies of the subject, Dr. Manna credits her love of both France and teaching French to her study abroad trip to Paris in college.

Dr. Manna studied abroad in France during and after her undergraduate studies at Penn State, but she loved living in Paris as an au pair after she left her job as a stock broker, studying at French schools like École Normale Supérieure, one of the top universities in France.

As of now, Dr. Manna is the only French professor on campus following the departure of Professors Dr. Katherine Maynard and Dr. Pamela Pears.

“It’s not really that much different from roles that I’ve had before because I have been in charge of French at other universities that I have taught,” she said. “French programs, no matter where you go, tend to be a little smaller.”

Despite this, Dr. Manna is teaching more classes “than [she] is used to” due to these circumstances.

“Coming in and taking over a position where the schedule is already set, I did have to take on more classes than someone normally would, but you know, I’ve had semesters where I had overloads of classes before, so it’s a lot but it’s not something I haven’t done before,” she said.

Dr. Manna has taught “everything across the board,” from intro to advanced level courses students are required to take for the major. However, she is only teaching FRE 101 and FRE 201 this semester.

Dr. Manna said that her favorite course to teach is a literature and culture course that focuses on the French Revolution and the social and their political influences on gender expression for women. She hopes to teach the course at WC at some point.

Even though Dr. Manna is the College’s only French Professor at the moment, she has help from senior and French Teacher’s Assistant Guillaume Banton, who is responsible for helping students with their pronunciation and giving presentations on French culture during their time in the lab.

“She’s really nice, and she really … likes the French culture, [which] we talked a lot about,” he said.

Overall. Dr. Manna is excited to be at WC and to have a part in shaping the future for the French Studies department.

“In every job I’ve ever had, I want more students to be really interested in French,” she said.  “I really hope the program can grow, and I hope I can have a hand in that.”

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