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Philip L. Frana is Associate Dean of the James Madison University Honors College and Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies & Independent Scholars. His roles and responsibilities include curriculum management, strategic planning, faculty development, honors interdisciplinary research, assessment and evaluation, and delivery of an individualized major program. His research interests are in the past, present, and future of artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, and computational creativity.

Phil received bachelor’s degrees in History and Economics from Wartburg College, and master’s and doctoral degrees in the History of Technology and Science from Iowa State University. He served as Software History Project Director at the Charles Babbage Institute for the History of Information Technology at the University of Minnesota. He is past Director of Undergraduate Research in the Norbert O. Schedler Honors College at the University of Central Arkansas.

Purpose Statement

I find highly motivated undergraduate students, give them unique opportunities to flourish, and challenge them to make a better world.

Recent Administration
  • President, Virginias Collegiate Honors Council (2019-present)
  • National Collegiate Honors Council Diversity Committee (2008-2009, 2018-present)
  • National Collegiate Honors Council Program Committee (2007, 2009, 2012-present)
  • Provost’s Research & Scholarship Task Force (2018-present)
  • JMU Honors College Academic Unit Head (2018-present)
  • Honors Orientation and Montpelier Retreat Coordinator (2018-present)
  • Provost’s Honors College Curriculum Task Force (2018)
  • Honors Departmental Liaison Chair (2017-present)
  • Honors College Medallion Ceremony (2017-present)
  • JMU Graduate School Executive Council (2017-present)
  • Honors Interdisciplinary Studies Minor Degree Committee Chair (2017)
  • Honors Curriculum Management Committee (2016-present)
  • JMU Entrepreneurship Fellow (2016-present)
  • Madison Giving Committee (2016-present)
  • Honors Transfer Admissions Liaison (2015-2019)
  • JMU Faculty Research Council (2014-present)
  • Honors Faculty Fellows (2013-present)
  • Honors Advisory Council (2013-present)
  • Admissions Open Houses; CHOICES; New York Receptions; Selection Committee (2013-present)
  • Madison Honors Leadership Council (2013-present)
  • JMU Honors Assessment Liaison (2013-present)
  • IDLS Promotion & Tenure Committee (ongoing)
  • Honors Search Committee Chair (ongoing)
Interdisciplinary Teaching

Undergraduate Lower Division: Interdisciplinary Scholarship: Introduction to the Independent Scholars Major at JMU, Honors First Year Seminar

Undergraduate Upper Division: Art, Technology & Ideas, The Artificial Other: Minds, Machines & Meaning, Service & Civic Engagement, Creativity, Innovation & Human Fulfillment, Cultural Heritage of the Modern World, Darwin’s Evolving Science & the Darwinian Heritage, Documentary Filmmaking, Hacking into Life, History of the Life Sciences & Medicine, The Law & The Lawless, Online Communities, Oral History & The Study of Memory, Reimagining Honors: Empowering Learners & Leaders in the 21st Century, Strange Communities, Trusting Technology in the Information Age, The Virtual Other

Capstone and Research: Honors Capstone Kickoff, Honors Capstone Project

Recent and Upcoming Presentations

(Session Organizer) “Six Ways to Teach Creativity in Honors,” Annual Meeting of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 2019.

(Session Organizer) “Mindsets and Motivation in Honors Advising,” Annual Meeting of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 2019.

(w/ Matt Chamberlin) “Helping Individualized Major Students Develop Facility with Complex Concepts,” Individualized Major Program Conference, 2019.

(Session Organizer) “Confessional Narratives on New Honors Colleges,” Annual Meeting of the  National Collegiate Honors Council, 2018.

(w/  Matthew Reed, Patrice Splan, Nina Schenk, Cynthia Zastudil, Lauren Palmieri, Matthew Best, and  Jared Diener) “Gender Diversity in Honors Recruitment and Retention,” Annual Meeting of the Southern Regional Honors Council, 2018.

(w/ Matt Chamberlin and Fletcher Linder) “How Assessment Suggested a Change of Focus for James Madison University’s Independent Scholars Program,” Individualized Major Program Conference, 2018.

(Session Organizer) “Best Honors Administrative Practices in Two-Year to Four-Year Honors  Transfers,” Annual Meeting of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 2017.

(Session Organizer) “A Second Chance at a First Shot: Collapse, Rebound, and Recovery in Honors College Building,” Annual Meeting of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 2017.

(Session Organizer) “Best Practices in Two-Year to Four-Year Honors Transfers,” Annual Meeting of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 2016.

Social Media Resources

JMU Honors Profile

@ArtificialOther Twitter

@MadisonHonors Twitter

Phil’s LinkedIn Profile 

Google Scholar Profile

ORCID iD

Professional Memberships
  • Associates of the Charles Babbage Institute
  • Association for Computing Machinery
  • National Collegiate Honors Council
  • Southern Regional Honors Council
  • Virginias Collegiate Honors Council
  • Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council (manuscript reviewer)
Current Research & Scholarship

The Past, Present, and Future of Artificial Intelligence, ed. with Michael Klein for ABC-CLIO, manuscript due 2020.

“Acxiom Corporation, the Invention of Personalized Direct Mail, and the Dawn of ‘Big Data,’” IEEE Annals for the History of Computing, under review.

“Honors Mindsets and Motivations,” w/ Matthew Best, Jared Diener, and Kenn Barron, in Advising Honors (Lincoln, NE: National Collegiate Honors Council, 2019), forthcoming.

“Telematics and the Early History of International Digital Information Flows,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 40.2 (April-June 2018): 32-47.

“Best Practices in Two-Year to Four-Year Honors Transfers,” Honors in Practice 13 (2017): 9-20.