In 1894 literary scholar George Saintsbury coined the term “Janeite” as a devotée of Jane Austen. Professor Maria Frawley (pictured with her cat Zeke) is a self-proclaimed Janeite, although she would like to emphasize that Janeites are scholars as well as devotées. You cannot deny this fact when meeting with the witty and warm Frawley who is not only a Nineteenth Century literature professor, but the new executive director of the University Honors Program.
Although Frawley has been teaching for years she had never been on the administrative side of things until now. “It has been very revealing and enlightening to learn what goes on behind the scenes,” she said. “There are a lot of balls in the air at once.”
This is not surprising since the University Honors Program is a university wide program serving all students in all schools. “The most important piece is adapting the curriculum to fit all students,” she said. This includes assessing the somewhat new curriculum. Frawley said, “I keep what’s working working and bring new ideas to the table.”
One of her prominent goals is working with the Admissions Office to market the program more. “We are a program that is freshmen only admission partly so we start building the community early on,” she said. Although most Honors students graduate with departmental honors, the English Department’s Honors Program is open to all who wish to apply whether they are in the University Honors Program or not.
Frawley finds this new community one of her favorites aspects of the job. “It’s very easy to find a niche in your home department and very rarely get outside of it,” she said. “The happiest part of my job is meeting new people.”
But this does not mean that Frawley is completely absent from her home department. She stills attends meetings, keeps up to date with English department friends, and continues to read and write. She said, “I have no intention of giving up that component of my identity.”
Frawley looks forward to teaching again next semester. She describes her Jane Austen Dean’s Seminar as a annual “multivitamin.” And eventually she hopes to have a teaching relationship with her Honors Program students.
Despite her busy new schedule and future plans to return to teaching, Frawley still finds time to advise students. “There are important relationships to nurture. I do not want to cut that cord,” she said.
Similarly Frawley continues to read and research. Although she admits, “It’s very easy to say I will read in the morning, but I use the time to respond to the email deluge instead,” she said. Despite the distraction, she is currently working on a lecture on Austen for Parents Weekend, writing a book review for a biography of Florence Nightengale, and even writing a new book on keywords distinctive to Austen’s writing.
Its safe to say Frawley is plenty busy, but still present as ever in all areas of GW. Just stop by her office in the Honors Program building and you will find a shrine to Jane Austen for Frawley is a true Janeite and GW professor if there ever was one.
To read more about the University Honors Program, you can visit their blog here.