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Franci Phelan, Ph.D.

The Adventurer

Franci Phelan, Ph.D.

Senior Vice President, Grow People
Kum & Go

The Adventurer


Dr. Phelan’s expertise in the human resources field led her to the top of many companies. She designs and executes strategies to ensure that an organization remains a preferred workplace and supportive of all associates.

Dr. Phelan has an extensive background in human resources, including senior level positions in talent management and organizational design and development, cultural change, succession planning, strategy, integration, and international assignments. She has held positions with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; DuPont/Pioneer; Cummins Engine Company; Miller Brewing Company; TDS Telecom; Principal Financial Group; Wells Fargo Home Mortgage; Krause Holdings, LLC; and the Circle K Corporation.

Dr. Phelan holds a Master of Science in management from Indiana Wesleyan University and a Bachelor of Arts in business communication and advertising from Arizona State University. She earned a doctoral degree in human and organizational learning with the George Washington University. She is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) and a Global Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).

Q&A with Franci Phelan

What different perspectives do you bring to the ACT Foundation Aces Research Network?

I really understand the interworking of organizations and the language of employers. Being able to traverse this landscape and serve as a translator of workplace practices and policies will be of value to the group as we look at data and solutions in the workplace.

What excites you about working with the ACT Foundation? For far too long, we have allowed the division between education and the working world to exist. I am eager to work with partners to understand the driving forces or barriers that keep these two worlds apart and ultimately come up with reasonable, sustainable ways to bridge the gap between “the worker” and “the learner.” Ultimately, we have huge potential and an obligation to link people to jobs. How do we start to develop ways to bridge this gap between “the worker” and “the learner”? I think this is where the theory of isomorphism comes into play—how practices move from one organization or environment to another. We need to look at why some practices are successful or unsuccessful in certain cases so that we can develop solutions that have broad applications in many settings. What are some important values of the research needed to ground strategies and solutions? Our research products are intended to be palatable and actionable, translated for the audience we are trying to engage—whether for the employer, learner, or policy maker. We will also focus on how our research makes sense with the realities of the working learner environment. An idea may work in theory, but it needs to also work in practice. How do you define success? I believe that everyone deserves a lifetime of learning without confronting barriers based on the zip code where they grew up. One of the most important things we can do is create better access to learning opportunities regardless of how or at what speed individuals are embarking on them. Only then can we start to create a world where all individuals are able to contribute to their own career and life success.

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