Blockchain Education

Block chalk: How blockchain education is sprouting in Kansas

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Regret never sits well. Especially when the feeling derives from something you can see a mile away. The avoidance of this feeling and the desire to attach myself to a positive disruption are driving factors that lead to my interest in blockchain. Blockchain technology is gaining momentum and I get many questions about how I first became involved.

In the summer of 2017, I had the fortune of interning for the district office of Congressman David Schweikert (AZ 6th District). In my hot Scottsdale cubicle, I would overhear chatter about policy, sports and blockchain. The latter would lead to hours of scouring through Medium articles and YouTube videos in an effort to decode the language. My appetite for knowledge became more of an addiction over the last year. It wasn’t until the next spring that I met another junkie with ambition to expose this technical narcotic to our university.

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Michael Catt (my confidant) and I both wanted to be involved in some capacity with blockchain. Despite the fundamental programming class that I’d make a guest appearance to in high school, I had no legitimate experience with technology. We ventured that most students were this way. They may have some degree of appetite, but the next steps look invisible. Given the countless hours we poured into understanding the fundamentals, we had a good starting point. Phone calls ensued. Michael resided across the pond in Europe for the summer. We coordinated times and I’d give Michael a call from Washington, D.C. sitting in an empty meeting room, hoping senior management wouldn’t walk in, and plan how to take our passions to the next level.

I can compare our blockchain club in 2018 to an internet club in 1996. There are plenty of directions to take it. The technology transcends the industries of finance, supply chain, insurance and energy — to name just a few. Taking the meta approach, we partnered with professionals in differing industries to discuss their perspectives and through these presentations, we’ve attracted wide attention. Humanitarian students who otherwise wouldn’t lift their heads from a single sourced Colombian cold brew are sitting down for a 30-minute presentation on leveraging blockchain for sustainability. We’ve brought together ambitious minds from all walks of student life to hear about the transformative applications that will affect the future workforce.

Establishing the attention is a necessary first step and what follows is engagement which relies on digestible information. I’ve come across individuals who conclude they will not understand the basics before even scratching the surface. This additional barrier doesn’t make education any easier, especially for an emerging technology. Once over the initial hurdle, the track isn’t so scary.

The Blockchain Institute at the University of Kansas has provided an incredible opportunity to lead. There are no incumbents with an established path to follow. Blockchain groups at the university level are spearheaded by ambitious men and women in their early 20’s. For me, this experience has felt similar to a start-up. Meeting with my small group of enthusiasts, in an empty conference room or cluttered college apartment to discuss our big plans. Initially, we decided to structure our roles by industry, but soon realized how many different hats we each would wear.

A year ago, I would have never imagined that I’d be taking several calls a day related to external partnerships and internal next steps. In six months, the professional experience I’ve gained exceeds three years of taking classes. I feel fortunate with timing. As I mature, so will the technology. Luckily, I’ve found myself ahead of the traditional white-collar track. I’m confident in my research and proven ability to provide transformative suggestions to a senior manager with a static agenda.

Timing has either been luck or fate. I’m not too concerned with which it is, but how I can capitalize. Starting the Blockchain Institute has accelerated my professional acumen, and opened doors I never knew existed.

Starting an initiative to equip the future workforce is a more frictionless process than one might imagine. The experience that comes along is invaluable. I encourage you to follow along with our journey on Instagram @kublockchain and Twitter @kublockchain, and continue the dialogue with us.

From time to time, we invite industry thought leaders, academic experts and partners, to share their opinions and insights on current trends in blockchain to the Blockchain Unleashed blog. The opinions in these blog posts are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of IBM.

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Student Director - Blockchain Institute at the University of Kansas

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