GW University Makes Traveling Safer and Easier for Students and Faculty Abroad

Chartered by an Act of Congress nearly 200 years ago, The George Washington University (GW) was founded as an intellectual hub for the United States. With its main campus located just blocks from the White House, GW turns Washington, D.C., into a living classroom by giving students and faculty direct access to a wide variety of learning and research opportunities through nearly every U.S. federal agency. But the GW experience goes far beyond the U.S. capital. “We aspire to be a comprehensive global research university,” explains Sharon Heinle, associate VP and comptroller at GW. "We are seeking to change the world, not only the students we educate, but through the research that's done here at the university and abroad to help improve the lives of citizens around the world."

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To achieve this global mission, GW prides itself on sending faculty and students to learn and teach in more than 100 countries, with primary campuses in Chile, England, France, and Spain. It is also focused on attracting international students and faculty to its three Washington, D.C. campuses. All of this adds up to a lot of travel and expense management. A primary goal of the university’s finance and security departments is to make sure that experience is as hassle-free and safe as possible. To do this, it must make services for students and faculty overseas simple and accessible, while also minimizing back-end operations and overhead. “It has to be one, two, three,” says Darrell Darnell, GW’s senior VP for safety and security. “It can’t be complicated.”

As with many higher education institutions, manual back-end processes, outdated technology, and siloed data made it difficult for GW to offer students and faculty a truly seamless travel experience. Saving and copying receipts and then completing manual expense reports took up time that should have been spent focused on study, teaching, and research – not to mention the excessive time it took finance administrators to review and approve those reports. From a security perspective, contact data scattered across different systems made it difficult to keep track of student and faculty whereabouts, which in turn made it hard for security teams to send out location-specific security alerts.


GW needed a better way. Enter SAP Concur solutions

To make expense invoicing and reporting more simple, fast, and accurate, GW chose SAP Concur solutions. Now, students and teachers traveling for GW can use their smartphones to take pictures of receipts and have their expenses automatically uploaded – right at the point of sale. Not only does this save them the worry of losing paper receipts, but it also means they don’t have to sit down and manually complete a time-consuming and error-prone expense report. In short, it leaves more time for students and teachers to focus on their studies, their research goals, and enjoying their time abroad.

But traveling GW students and teachers aren’t the only ones benefitting from SAP Concur solutions. The convenience and time savings extend to finance and controlling administrators, who can also review and approve expenses through the mobile app. Antoinette McCorvey, GW’s deputy EVP and CFO explains, “Now, when I get ready to approve an expense report, I can take time that would be wasted time and turn it into productive time.” Having automated expense report generation also means finance can be confident the data it gets from travelers is correct, making it easier to ensure that all charges align with internal and regulatory compliance requirements – an especially important step for publicly funded higher education institutions.

In addition to streamlining T&E and invoice management, SAP Concur solutions are helping the GW security team keep its people safer. With the Concur Locate Web service, GW can pull comprehensive, accurate, and timely student and faculty location data from multiple sources. This allows the university to proactively monitor weather, violence, system disruptions, and other potential risks, then communicate with people in affected areas and connect them to the support and services they need. “Before SAP Concur solutions, we didn’t really have a way to get information out efficiently,” explains Darnell. “Concur Locate allows my office to know exactly where an individual is –  from their travel itinerary, to their contact information – in case there is an emergency. We can send out one mass notification to a broad spectrum of students and faculty members across different countries and platforms. Having this at your fingertips puts you at ease, so you can focus on your teaching and learning.”

Across the board, GW is dedicated to providing mission-critical services to students and faculty. "You want to make the processes that support the business as effective as possible," says finance director, Kadriene Sylvain. When it comes to safer travel and more convenient travel and expense management, SAP Concur solutions are helping GW do just that.


Watch the video to learn more about SAP Concur solutions are making life easier and travel safer for GW faculty and staff, then read the full case study.

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