The University of Wyoming recently opened its Center for Blockchain and Digital Innovation. Only a handful of universities in the country have this type of center, and UW hopes it will help diversify the state’s economy. Kamila Kudelska of Wyoming Public Radio spoke with new center director Steven Lupien to discuss the unique resources the center will offer. First, Lupien explained what a blockchain is.
Steven Lupien: Blockchain is very simple. It is a new forms database. And what makes this database unique is that multiple people can see information about the database at the same time and have confidence in its validity. So what the blockchain is unique for is two things. First, it ensures the transparency of transactions with counterparties. That’s one of the reasons you’re seeing it in things like supply chains right now. Because you can go with the flow of anything, a product, from start to finish with confidence and transparency. The other thing that blockchain does, which is really unique, is that it feels good, it makes data unique.
Kamila Kudelska: And so why do we need a center for blockchain and digital innovation at the University of Wyoming?
SL: I am convinced this could not happen in any other state due to the uniqueness of Wyoming and how it works. Its legislature works so collaboratively that Wyoming has passed 20 laws in the past three years, specifically allowing digital assets, blockchain, and cryptocurrency. So, to answer your question, with everything Wyoming has done, to foster that environment. The university recognizes that we play a unique role here in Wyoming. We are a land grant university, first and foremost, but we are the only university in the state of Wyoming. We therefore have a unique relationship with the state. And we believe it behooves us to work with the stakeholders in the business, not only to help them see that Wyoming could be the place where they can do business and be home, but also, because it it is our responsibility to create the kind of students that these companies then want to hire. And we want to be able to work with these companies as well on research opportunities, and things that universities generally do so that the university can now work hand in hand with the state to help develop this new industry and to ensure that our main export of the state is not our educated youth.
KK: And what is this center trying to do? If I understand correctly, there could be research, it will end up being master’s degrees or diplomas, which the students can bring.
SL: From an educational programming perspective, we’re going to start with an undergraduate minor that we want to kick off. Then not in the next semester, but next year in the fall. So we’re putting the last pieces of that together, and it’s going to be an interdisciplinary minor, which will run through many of our colleges, but specifically Agriculture, Natural Resources, Engineering and Applied Sciences and our College of Commerce. So this will be the first, we are also working on creating graduate certificate programs and continuing education for our business partners, but also for Wyoming residents who want to learn more about this space. We will be working with companies on research and research grants. And we are also because of our unique relationship, we also seek and have strategic partnerships. So we want to work with Wyoming’s incredibly strong community college system and help them develop programs around that space, and maybe even a path where community college students can then move on to the University of Wyoming to complete. their studies. Obviously, collaborations with industry are important. Working with state agencies, like the Banking Division, which regulates fast banks and the Secretary of State’s office, and certainly working with Jillian Balow’s office with K-12 education, I think that’s is something we really want to get involved in. And there are about a dozen other universities that have blockchain centers like ours. And so by working together, I think we can create better programs for everyone in all universities eventually and working with them. So Wyoming is now in a unique position because of our legislation to really lead this effort.
KK: I think one of the big keywords that pops up whenever Wyoming talks about blockchain is that what they do is diversify the economy. And I’m wondering, if you can explain how he’s going to do this?
SL: If we are successful, there are several ways. Listen, we all recognize that Wyoming is currently facing fiscal challenges due to the impact of today’s economy on electricity and energy. This bill has an impact in several ways. First and foremost, by creating an enabling environment for businesses with legal certainty, our goal is for businesses to be domiciled in the state of Wyoming. And when you live in the state of Wyoming, you pay your expenses at the secretary of state’s office, and that generates revenue for the state. Many of these people will also create jobs, and jobs are certainly essential to the growth of our economy. And again, as I mentioned earlier, we want to have an environment where UW graduates have options where they can, stay here and live in the communities they grew up in, have high paying jobs in the technology and finance. So I think there is also this possibility.