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Making the Grade: Top Blockchain and Crypto U.S. Universities

As I contemplated which law school to attend, my decision was influenced by the various opportunities offered by the universities. Just like students all over the world, the decision to attend a school comes down to a plethora of factors. For me, one of these factors was considerations surrounding crypto, blockchain, and the overall fintech space.

Students of different ethnicities and educational backgrounds have expressed a greater interest in crypto and the blockchain economy during the last few years. In response, universities have embraced this trend and have started to evolve, offering courses in crypto, blockchain, and defi as a legitimate academic study. A 2018 study by Coinbase found that 42% of the top 50 universities around the globe now offer at least one course on cryptocurrency or blockchain, with United States based schools offering the majority. Since then, this percentage has exponentially increased. The following chart illustrates U.S. student’s involvement with cryptocurrency.

There are many schools in the United States that have included crypto, blockchain, and defi curriculums in their academic agendas in an effort to establish themselves as a futuristic establishment for students and firms alike. By offering courses in this niche field, schools are hoping to prepare its students for technological opportunities and provide major tech firms with knowledge and qualified employee candidates. Some of these schools include Princeton, New York University, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, University of Pennsylvania, University of Colorado at Boulder, Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, University of Miami, University of Texas, and Columbia University to name a few. The following chart illustrates 2020 blockchain university rankings.

Princeton University is one of the most prestigious universities in the United States that offers a blockchain related course called Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies. This online course is offered via Coursera and takes approximately 23 hours to complete, with flexible deadlines. The course is taught by lecturers, including Arvind Narayanan. The course states that it addresses important questions about Bitcoin such as, “ How does Bitcoin work? What makes Bitcoin different? How secure are your Bitcoins? How anonymous are Bitcoin users? What determines the price of Bitcoins? Can cryptocurrencies be regulated? What might the future hold?” This course will give the student the conceptual foundations needed to “engineer secure software that interacts with the Bitcoin network.”

Source: Princeton University

New York University has established a reputation for its blockchain and crypto courses. In 2014, NYU started to offer blockchain classes; the first class offered was “The Law and Business of Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies.” Another class offered was called “ Digital Currency: Revolution in Money and Payments?” Currently, NYU is known for its 8 session online course called “Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies.” In this course, one will learn about the different cryptocurrencies and how to use these alternative currencies in practice given the currency regulatory environment. Students will also learn about blockchain and the current and future uses of blockchain technology, along with cryptocurrency. The university states that this course is ideal for anyone interested in learning about blockchain and cryptocurrency or for professionals working in business or related fields.

Cornell University has over 28 courses relating to the blockchain and crypto topic. According to Cornell Blockchain, in 2019, Cornell was named the #1 University in the world for cryptocurrency education, and many of the school’s alumni are featured industry leaders in the blockchain and cryptocurrency economy. Cornell has also initiated a prestigious and educational Blockchain club. In this club, many alumni, and attending members of the university have “spoken at some of the largest developer conferences, worked at top blockchain companies, and contributed to leading blockchain research.” The club’s mission is to “educate members on the latest advancements in cryptocurrencies and blockchains.” The club invites leaders in the industry to share their experiences and hosts major blockchain conferences for industry and academic leaders to gather. Cornell also offers online certificate programs where students can learn from world-renowned blockchain and cryptocurrency experts from Cornell Tech. The certificate program states that a student will “walk away with a proposal for an application of blockchain technology” in his or her organization or business. The program invites business leaders, technology leaders, entrepreneurs, developers and software engineers or anyone seeking to greater understand blockchain and cryptocurrency to enroll.

Source: Cornell University

Duke University has ample blockchain and crypto classes offered within its different schools. Duke University offers a blockchain applications certificate, which has a duration of 3 to 4 months and teaches students to “apply blockchain technology to real-world business challenges.” The renowned university also offers an education program that collaborates with a firm to foster a blockchain lab and students’ success outside the classroom. Furthermore, Jeff Ward, director of Duke Center on Law and Technology at Duke University School of Law has made blockchain and crypto classes a priority in his curriculum to enable “students to be prepared to be leaders and help shape that technology.” In addition to the law school, Duke’s Fuqua school of business, led by professor Cambell Harvey, has shaped the classroom to be “a place to envision the future.”

“We want to teach about the technology that our clients are using — blockchain is absolutely that kind of technology. We want students to be prepared to be leaders and help shape that technology.” –Jeff Ward, director of Duke Center on Law and Technology

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business has established itself as a blockchain and crypto dominant school through its programming and curriculum. The school offers elective courses on the fintech space and blockchain in an effort to prepare students for this new sector within the workplace. These classes are constantly being adjusted and more classes are being added, as the business school coordinates the development of new courses alongside research. Furthermore, a sector of the McDonough School of Business hosts an annual D.C. blockchain summit, where experts gather and discuss blockchain and crypto. In addition to the business school, Georgetown’s law school has also made an effort to put forth blockchain and crypto academic exposure. It is stated that “no other law school in the country hosts, produces, and advances more policy dialogues and conferences, Congressional testimony, research, and scholarship on fintech than Georgetown Law.” Georgetown Law and the business school was awarded $1 million through the Ripple University Blockchain Research Initiative to “advance academic research, technical development, and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency, and digital payments.” Georgetown was chosen to receive this funding based on its established reputation and blockchain and crypto leadership.

Harvard University offers an online program called Introduction to Blockchain and Bitcoin, which covers the “mathematical, computational, and economic foundations of blockchain, and exposes students to the societal and legal implications of a decentralized monetary system based on consensus.” In addition, the university offers an online course with a duration of 6 weeks that is centered around Fintech. Aside from its online offerings, the university hosts a blockchain conference. In 2019, Harvard hosted a conference on the distributed ledger or blockchain technology that covered a multitude of broad-ranging topics. The university has made an effort to develop a blockchain and crypto academic community and curriculum in an effort to prepare students for future employment opportunities and exposure.

Source: Harvard University

Carnegie Mellon is a school that is known for having the highest percentage of blockchain publications from 2018–2020 against total research output. The university has an established blockchain club and lab. The university’s lab works with researchers who are focused on financial information risk management as it relates to blockchain technology. Furthermore, the school of computer science has formed a cryptography club or group that explores topics including zero-knowledge proofs, secure multi-party computation, blockchains and cryptocurrencies, verifiable computation, computing on encrypted data, non-malleable cryptography, and, anonymous communication. Carnegie Mellon’s business school has established an initiative aimed at development blockchain programs.

“It has established the Blockchain Initiative to foster innovations in the design, use, ethics, and regulation of decentralized, blockchain-based technologies.” –Carnegie Mellon University

The University of Pennsylvania has developed an online four week program through its business school that is part of the Fintech Foundations & Applications of Financial Technology Specialization, where students learn about cryptocurrency and how its an “innovative and effective method of currency.” As stated on the university’s website, one will gain a “deep understanding of the realities of cryptocurrency, the intricacies of Blockchain technology, and an effective strategy for incorporating cryptocurrency into your investment plans.” The University of Pennsylvania has also formed a blockchain club, where 400 students have come together to express their interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. In addition, to support the university’s students and students within the club, the University of Pennsylvania has formed a key partnership to support new research and academics in fintech. The partnership has been formed between Ripple and the Wharton School, enabling “faculty and student research to unlock the full potential of blockchain.”

Source: University of Pennsylvania

The University of Colorado in Boulder has developed a program that has injected blockchain into mainstream academia. In addition, the school has formed a student run organization called CU Blockchain that is focused on blockchain education and development. Furthermore, the university has created the University of Colorado Blockchain Alliance, which was “founded to integrate efforts across academic institutions, research institutions, industry leaders, foundations, and government organizations to advance the technologies, applications, governance, and effects of distributed ledger technologies in our society.”

Berkeley has one of the most prominent and highest blockchain industry reputations amongst schools. California-Berkeley offers many crypto and blockchain courses and has many student run organizations that host various crypto meetups and host talks, workshops, and research opportunities. An even more formal club at the school is called Blockchain at Berkeley. This organization is “another one of the leading conduits for students seeking Silicon Valley jobs.” Students have the network and skills to obtain jobs post undergraduate school, but also are given the opportunity to “take accessible and well-paid jobs at blockchain startups, often for part-time arrangements.”

Stanford University offers ample opportunities to learn about cryptocurrency and blockchain. Stanford offers classes, including Bitcoin Engineering where students study how to produce Bitcoin-enabled applications and computing. Stanford also offers an online program that “aims to unpack the hype behind the crypto craze” by learning from some of the leading figures in the industry.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers the largest amount of blockchain-related courses, amongst others. Additionally, MIT prides itself on having the most gross blockchain publications between 2018–2020 and highest blockchain industry representation among academics. Students of MIT have the opportunity to be as involved as they want with the crypto and blockchain community, as the university developed a club and an initiative to parallel student interest in the industry. MIT hosts a Bitcoin club that connects alumni with students to offer job and internship opportunities. Furthermore, MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative, led by director Neha Narula, gives students a chance to learn about cryptocurrency and blockchain with hands-on learning via research and other related projects. Aside from its student organizations, MIT offers an online blockchain program that lasts six weeks. In this program, students will gain “a deeper understanding of the capabilities and limitations of blockchain technology, enabling [one] to assess which business problems it can solve.”

The graphic above shows that MIT has the most campus blockchain offerings

The University of Miami has developed a boot camp to help people become fintech professionals in 24 weeks. The program is called University of Miami Financial Technology Boot Camp, and it includes hands-on virtual classes with a project based curriculum. In addition to the boot camp, the University of Miami School of Law has started to offer classes focused on introducing students to financial technology, cryptocurrency, and blockchain. Some of the classes offered include, “Law584: A Blockchain Technology and Business Strategies,” “Law349: A Digital Asset and Blockchain Regulation,” “Technology Law,” “AI & Robot Law,” “Blockchain Technology and Business Strategies,” “Cyber Civil Rights,” “Cyber Security Policy & Regulations,” “Data Security and Incident Response,” “Digital Currency & Blockchain Regulation.”

The University of Texas has incorporated classes around blockchain technology and the fintech sector over the last couple of years. For instance, UT offers classes including, “Fintech: Blockchain for Business and Finance” and “Fintech: The Future of Finance.” In addition the university has developed a Blockchain Initiative, which has three main goals. The goals include, “ (i) to support faculty and graduate students research on blockchain across colleges at the University of Texas at Austin; (ii) to teach students the main concepts related to blockchain, cryptocurrency, and digital payments; (iii) to be the hub of knowledge for external relations with industry practitioners, policymakers, and media.” The Initiative conducts cutting-edge research and supports various activities advancing students’ knowledge and potential future in the fintech sector.

Source: University of Texas

Lastly, Columbia University has developed an online program led by director Gur Huberman. The school states that “This program will pierce the mystery, explain how cryptocurrencies work, and how the underlying blockchain technology will potentially revolutionize business. If you want to evaluate whether it is time for your business to adopt this technology or adapt to it, this program is for you.”

Source: Columbia University

The schools listed above are just some of the universities in the United States that are offering classes, programs, and initiatives focused on the fintech sector, cryptocurrency, and blockchain. As more people, students, and professionals become interested in the above topics and industries, more schools are predicted to add more opportunities to their curriculums. As Forbes puts it, “universities and colleges have been quietly growing their understanding, appreciation, and involvement in blockchain technology as well as cryptocurrencies.” Though some schools may be ingrained in tradition, many are starting to offer or offer more classes beyond the status quo and towards a future standard in cryptocurrency, blockchain technology and other such aspects within the fintech sector.

As I prepare to go to law school at the University of Miami this upcoming fall, I am excited to embrace the opportunities offered by the school in the fintech sector. I am eager to take related courses in blockchain and crypto, and integrate myself into a city that is bullish on the future of fintech and defi. I am looking forward to tackling law and applying my new found education to blockchain and crypto. To The Moon!

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Jordana Cohen,

Associate

Alpha Sigma Capital

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