Prospective USC students who dream of studying cryptocurrency or blockchain technology may soon be able to do so as interest in the emerging space grows among the university’s student body.
Cryptocurrency is a digital token that uses blockchain, a decentralized ledger of all online transactions across a peer-to-peer network. Transactions take place online securely and without the need for intermediaries.
USC’s first blockchain class was taught in fall 2017 by Professor Nitin Kalé at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering. Kalé also helped create the blockchain minor for the Information Technology Program, making Viterbi one of the first schools in the world to offer an academic program in crypto.
A number of other California universities, such as UC Berkeley and Stanford, have also recently started offering courses on blockchain and crypto. According to a report released in 2019 by Coinbase, a San Francisco-based company that operates a crypto exchange platform, 56% of the world’s top 50 universities now offer at least one course on crypto or blockchain.
The blockchain minor at Viterbi focuses on the technology and applications of blockchains, and courses within the minor discuss crypto. The curriculum, however, does not include financial investment and trading. Kalé said the goal of the program is to educate students in blockchain innovation, its applications and the latest developments in the blockchain space.
“Of course, we do cover new growth areas such as NFTs that have been big this year with an emphasis on the technical and engineering aspects of such innovations,” Kalé said.
According to Harrison Macdonald, a sophomore majoring in economics, even students with no background in crypto can get involved in the community at USC. For students interested in the field but are without prior experience, he strongly recommends adding the blockchain minor.
“It’s a great intro into crypto and blockchain. It really outlines everything you need to know going into the space,” Macdonald said.
During the pandemic, Macdonald and a couple of his friends started a small crypto fund and traded all sorts of crypto coins including Bitcoin and Ethereum, two of the most popular cryptocurrencies on the market today. According to Macdonald, it was an engaging way to spend time during the pandemic with fellow young investors at USC.
“I’ve been in crypto for a pretty long time – ever since I was in high school,” Macdonald said. “I’ve always been very interested in finance, payments, decentralization and all of that good stuff. And I’ve always been entrepreneurial as well. And so I think it was only natural that crypto was sort of there.”
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