Marshall unveils grant expanding blockchain studies – Annenberg Media –

Fertitta Hall, a Marshall School of Business building. (Photo by Ling Luo)
On Tuesday, USC Marshall School of Business announced a five million dollar grant from VanEck Associates to support students in the fields of cryptocurrency, blockchain and NFTs.
NFTs are non-fungible tokens, a type of digital asset verified through the blockchain network and bought and sold with cryptocurrency.
The gift underwrites the debut of the VanEck Digital Assets Initiative which will support the development and implementation of new classes and auxiliary learning experiences for students. VanEck’s grant will also contribute to the expansion of the “Building the Blockchain Future” conference.
“Innovation in finance is happening at warp speed,” said Geoffrey Garrett, Dean of the Marshall School of Business. “This gift offers us the opportunity to be a real world leader in the academic study of these kinds of radical financial disruptions.”
Cynthia van Eck, who earned her undergraduate degree from Marshall in 1986, endowed the gift with her husband, Jan van Eck. Both Cynthia and Jan serve as members of Marshall’s Board of Councilors.
Jan is also the chief executive officer of Van Eck Associates, a U.S.-based asset management firm. Cynthia van Eck previously worked in financial services but left to raise a family. Currently, she is a philanthropist and a member on several non-profit boards.
“I greatly appreciate the education I got at Marshall and the leadership skills I was able to develop there,” said Cynthia van Eck in Marshall’s press release on the grant. “I hope that tech and non-tech students will be able to benefit from this program.”
The van Eck’s have made prior gifts to Marshall, including supporting the student investment fund and the Global Scholars program.
“Building the Blockchain Future,” one of the events slated to expand under the new grant, has previously hosted speakers including Jan van Eck, NFL quarterback Tom Brady, Cathie Wood B.S. ‘81, CEO of ARK Invest, and Antoly Yakovenko, who is affiliated with Solana — a prominent cryptocurrency.
Studies of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency have been expanding at USC in the last five years, with Viterbi first launching a class in blockchain in 2017.
“There are hundreds of members who are a part of Blockchain at USC. So, there are a lot of students who are interested in the space,” said Harrison Macdonald, President of Blockchain @ USC, a student organization. “Collaborating with Marshall, Dornsife and other schools will lead to more projects coming from USC in the blockchain space.”
Marshall’s moves run tangent to other university initiatives in the study of decentralized finance. The Viterbi School of Engineering offers a minor in blockchain technology and the blockchain department has professors from interdisciplinary backgrounds, including law, engineering and business.
Cryptocurrency has been widely reported to have a negative impact on the climate, including excessive energy usage and generating e-waste, according to a report by Columbia University. USC has made several university-wide decisions to separate itself from environmentally detrimental practices, including their plan to divest from fossil fuels nearly 12 months ago, as reported by Annenberg Media.
“[Marshall] can be a meeting point for all those different perspectives,” said Dean Garrett. “The true believers, the skeptics, the people who are thinking government regulation of markets is essential here. If we can convene all of those groups, I think that’ll create the strongest initiative.”
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