Profile: Frankie Frain

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Frankie Frain is a member of the Emerson trifecta: he is a staff member who has undergrad and grad degrees from Emerson. He is the current director of networking and telecommunications in the IT department.

He and his team are responsible for the College’s back-end infrastructure. They keep the land and wifi networks running and keep 300 servers up to date and secure in an offsite data center. All of the College’s systems are on the servers: Banner, email, eCommon, Cabinet, Box, and the Emerson website. Internet security also falls under his team’s purview. This charge includes keeping data safe, implementing best practices, and conducting annual security audits. His team oversees all of the telephone data as well, supporting around 1,000 staff and faculty phone systems.

One of the big projects he and his team undertook was the moving of the servers from campus to an offsite facility in December 2014. This move was made because it is cheaper and safer than having the servers onsite. Staff have also duplicated some servers as a disaster recovery measure. They started “virtualizing” servers in 2012 to decrease the College’s physical footprint and make us more agile in terms of managing, updating, and protecting the systems.

Other new initiatives that Frain is working on include establishing an IT disaster recovery plan and introducing two-factor authentication for passwords (e.g., Duo for Box).

Frain grew up in Westport, Massachusetts. He has his high school video teacher to thank for bringing Emerson to his attention. He started making films at the age of 14, so an undergraduate education in visual and media arts from Emerson was an obvious choice. During his first week at Emerson, he was hired as a student worker in the IT’s Help Desk department. Having just arrived at a new school, he felt underqualified and figured he wouldn’t last the first week. But he did, thanks to mentors such as Ben Denton and Neil Davin.

Frain’s career plan at the time was to move to LA after graduation and possibly teach film classes. After spending a semester in LA in 2007, he realized that this path was not for him. When he returned to Boston, he was hired by the Help Desk again, where his main goal was to “resolve help tickets before they were even created.” His initiative paid off, and he was hired as a lab administrator upon graduation. In this role, he collaborated with tech-heavy departments such as VMA and Journalism, and set up a render farm for video encoding in the labs. He and his coworkers also implemented the first dual-boot labs.

He started the MFA program in Visual and Media Arts in 2009 and graduated in 2012. In 2011, he moved over to the infrastructure and networking side of the IT department by accepting a position as a systems administrator. Among his responsibilities were the oversight of wifi, network connectivity, and server management across campus. In 2013, he took on the role of interim director of networking and telecommunications and secured the permanent role a few months later.

Frain enjoys working at Emerson because it allows him access to a creative environment; he is able to keep in touch with VMA faculty, students, and alumni he’s worked with over the years. He also values the relationships he has with colleagues. He stated that the campus size is a good fit for him: “it’s small enough to know a lot of colleagues but big enough to make a difference.”

His main hobby outside of work continues to be film. He directs, edits, and acts in films and also produces web series and podcasts. He also enjoys working on animation. Between 2006 and 2014, he created four feature films and screened them at multiple film festivals. His most recent feature, Having Fun Up There, won Best Writing and Best New England Film at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival in 2014. One of his favorite current projects is his web series BoxMac about the search for the best macaroni and cheese.

Frain lives in Westport, Massachusetts, with his wife, Nina.

Nancy Howell (Creative Services)

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