Juniors start club focused on blockchain technology, cryptocurrency

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Junior Jacob Zionts, a co-founder of the GW Blockchain Club, started the group last month to teach students about cryptocurrency and database-storing.

Updated: May 15, 2018 at 11:42 p.m.

Two juniors are teaching students how cryptocurrency could be applied to career paths in fields like international affairs and journalism.

The students launched the GW Blockchain Club last month to teach students about cryptocurrency and database-storing – skills they said are valuable to understand as students enter an increasingly data-heavy workforce. The founders said they hope learning about blockchain, a digital medium that records transactions, will allow students with different majors to apply blockchain skills, like tracking how much money companies have in their accounts, to their line of work.

“Even if they’re not going to get involved with new and emerging technologies, we want to show them how new and emerging technologies, like blockchain, can influence the humanities,” junior Jacob Zionts, one of the club’s founders, said.

Blockchain is an online list of records, dubbed “blocks,” which are linked to a form of online currency, called cryptocurrency.

Zionts said the organization has worked to garner interest and recruit members through Facebook posts and an information session in District House last month, which roughly 10 students attended. He said leaders anticipate that the club will become officially registered with the Center for Student Engagement in September.

The CSE mandates that new student groups write a constitution before becoming official – a requirement the founders are still drafting.

Zionts said beginning in the fall, the club will host large-scale events, like panel discussions with experts in bitcoin and cryptocurrency, once every month alongside smaller meetings with members every other week. One event could include a discussion about how blockchain affects voting, which would involve political science professors, he said.

Zionts said the main goal of the club is to demonstrate to students that blockchain has “important political, social, environmental impacts that students should be aware of” and could pertain to students’ majors and interests. He said students often think the field is too complicated to understand, so they hesitate to learn about the field.

“That’s just the first component, having resources out there so GW students who have heard about this technology but don’t know much about it can come in, see what it’s about and potentially get interested,” he said.

He added that the club will host “Cryptocurrency 101” meetings to teach students what blockchain terms mean before they decide whether they want to join the organization.

“We want to be the resource for students at GW to learn about blockchain technology,” Zionts said.

Junior Rene Nayman, the organization’s other co-founder, said it wasn’t until she and her co-founder began working at the company that they became interested in blockchain technology. Nayman, who studies international relations and environmental science, and Zionts both work for ConsenSys, a blockchain software company with an office in D.C.

“Maybe I’m living in my own little bubble, but I feel like GW lacks that kind of focus on financial tech, and also emerging technologies,” she said.

She said blockchain technology can often be used for data management and artificial intelligence – skills applicable to majors like cybersecurity and law – but students lack the knowledge to understand how the practice can be used to earn money and gain an edge in the workforce.

“We want to make sure we incorporate people from a diversity of backgrounds,” she said. “The technology is so new that if we don’t take the initiative right now to incorporate those voices, then we’re losing a great opportunity to the way that this technology progresses.”

Sophomore Christopher Myers, who attended the interest meeting and will be a member of the club once it becomes official, said he’s studied blockchain technology throughout the past six months and wants to combine the interest with his education in the School of Business.

He said he’s researched blockchain in books and business plans, but the club will allow him to discuss the topic with other students and “accelerate” his expertise faster than studying by himself.

“Because it’s such a new field, our club’s ideas, contributions and projects not only can contribute to members’ development, but can actually be a hub for development for the entire industry,” he said.

Johnny Morreale contributed reporting.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported Rene Nayman’s last name. It is now correct. We regret this error.

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