• Cutting Edge

George Mason University wants to expand RPA group nationwide

This week, the founders of the Robotic Process Automation Initiative at George Mason University join the Cutting EDge podcast to explain how their new RPA community of practice effort has the potential to expand to a nationwide network.

The community of practice, announced last month, is designed to help other higher education institutions in Virginia become familiar with automation and enhance how students experience their educations.

“We want to educate all the universities, public and private, in Virginia, probably all the way down to the community college level, so they can take advantage of [RPA],” says David Rehr, a GMU professor and co-founder of the RPA Initiative. “[Automation can help universities] be more efficient, thereby releasing more resources to focus on student engagement and helping educate more students, and frankly, keeping colleges more constrained in their costs.”

Though the RPA community of practice effort is only a month old, Rehr and his co-founder, Dorin Munteanu, say Virginia is only the beginning. 

“We really want to sustain a culture of automation and innovation throughout the state of Virginia,” Munteanu says. “I think there are a lot of ingredients that are out there, not only at the state level, but throughout the country. So therefore, I think we’ll be planning — and what we see out of this community of practice project is to grow it and scale it nationally so it reaches all 50 states.”

In the news this week:

A former technology manager at Northeastern University’s Immersive Media Lab was arrested in Texas and is charged with falsely conveying a bomb threat and lying to federal agents. Authorities say Jason Duhaime masterminded a bomb hoax that took place on the university’s Boston campus.

Universities are struggling to connect with their students, according to new survey results published by Salesforce. The firm found that just 12% of students feel a strong sense of belonging at their institutions. The report recommends higher education institutions step up efforts to engage and support students, from pre-enrollment to post-graduation. 

Students are adjusting to online learning, but technology challenges persist, according to survey results from Educause. Seventy-seven percent of students say they experienced technical issues in the 2021-2022 academic year. Fifty-one percent of those reported that those issues caused them to feel stressed.

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Cutting Edge


Every two weeks, the Cutting EDge Podcast will bring you the latest in higher education technology news and analysis. The program will explore trending topics in depth and highlight news across the campus IT landscape. Each episode will feature conversations with top executives across higher education on things like hybrid learning, emerging technology, cybersecurity and modernization.

Hosted by Jake Williams

Jake Williams is the vice president of content and community for StateScoop & EdScoop at Scoop News Group. Williams has spent nearly a decade in the government IT market, covering the ins-and-outs of state and local government as well as higher education. Williams started his journalism career in regional journalism in his native Pennsylvania, and also worked as a reporter for Campaigns & Elections magazine.