Blockchain and cryptocurrency are still early in development, so those who are involved now can help shape where they’re going.
That was among the messages delivered in Baltimore by Kevin Werbach, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in blockchain. He was speaking to a group of faculty and students from historically Black colleges and universities over the weekend.
Morgan State University organized the first HBCU Blockchain Summit held May 3 to 4, which brought together 120 researchers from 35 universities across the country, as well as students.
The Baltimore university’s Earl G. Graves School of Business created space for blockchain by forming the Center for the Study of Blockchain and Financial Technology. The leaders of that effort are looking to provide resources to faculty and students on blockchain and cryptocurrency that can assist with developing courses and other campus activities.
The Center has also sought to extend influence beyond campus. In February, it formed a partnership with Ripple to join the Silicon Valley-based payments firm’s University Blockchain Research Initiative. As part of that effort, the Center is providing resources to other HBCUs.
The conference was a part of that effort, with Ripple also supporting and Senior Vice President of Business and Corporate Development Kahina Van Dyke serving as a speaker.
Dr. Ali Emdad, associate dean at the Graves School and director of the center, said the two-day event was designed to explore blockchain and cryptocurrency, as well as regulations and how the technologies are having an impact on sectors of the economy, as well as “what lessons should higher education take from all these recent developments and how higher education should absorb and adapt to these changing landscapes.” Increasing knowledge of these topics can help inform courses at multiple colleges, Emdad said.
These talks also touched on the human dimension of the decentralized technology. Werbach said increased identity protection involved with the technology boils down to a key element necessary for all sorts of social and business interaction: “It’s about trust.”
Being that the technology is in a nascent stage, the sessions started with a primer on blockchain terminology. Along with Werbach, speakers on the first night also included Devon Bryan, executive VP and chief information security officer of the Federal Reserve System, whose talk focused on the cybersecurity implications of these new technologies. He said it’s important to prepare cyber defenders to protect all emerging technologies.
As a leader, said Bryan, who is Black, his presence at events with students and scholars can encourage more minorities to get into the field.
“Having a visible presence at events like this helps to build a pipeline of other women and African American scholars who see somebody doing something that they’re passionate about and imagine the possibility that they, too, could do that,” he said.