The University of Wyoming has recently opened its Center for Blockchain and Digital Innovation. Only a handful of universities in the country have this kind of center, and UW hopes this will help to diversify the state's economy. Wyoming Public Radio's Kamila Kudelska spoke with the new center's director Steven Lupien to discuss what unique resources the center will offer. First, Lupien explained what a blockchain is.
Steven Lupien: Blockchain is very simple. It's a new form database. And what makes this database unique is that multiple people can see information on the database at the same time and trust that it's valid. So what blockchain is uniquely good at is two things. One is it provides transparency in counterparty transactions. It's one of the reasons why you see it in things like supply chains right now. Because you can track the movement of anything, a product, from very beginning to very end with trust and transparency. The other thing that blockchain does, which is truly unique, is it makes well, it makes data unique.
Kamila Kudelska: And so then why do we need a center for blockchain and digital innovation at University of Wyoming?
SL: I'm convinced that this couldn't happen in any other state because of the uniqueness of Wyoming and how it operates. Its legislature operates so collaboratively that Wyoming has passed 20 laws in the past three years, specifically enabling digital assets, blockchain and cryptocurrency. So to answer your question, with everything that Wyoming has done, to foster this environment. The university recognizes that we play a unique role here in Wyoming. We're a land grant university, first and foremost, but we are the only university in the state of Wyoming. So we have a unique relationship with the state. And we believe it's incumbent upon us to work with corporate stakeholders, not only to help them see that Wyoming might be the place for them to do business and to domicile, but also, because it's our responsibility to create the type of students that these businesses then want to hire. And we want to be able to work with these businesses as well on research opportunities, and the things that universities typically do so the university can now work with the state hand in glove to help develop this new industry, and make sure that our chief export of the state isn't our college educated youth.
KK: And so what is this center trying to do? As I understand there might be some research, they'll eventually be master's or degrees, that students can come out with it.
SL: In the educational programs standpoint, we are going to start out with an undergraduate minor that we want to launch. Next, not next semester, but next year in the fall. And so we're putting the final pieces of that together, and it will be an interdisciplinary minor, that will cross many of our colleges, but specifically, agricultural, natural resources, engineering, and applied sciences and our College of Business. So that'll be first, we are also working on creating graduate certificate programs, and continuing education for our business stakeholders, but also for residents of Wyoming that want to learn more about this space. We are going to be working with businesses on research and research grants. And we're also because of our unique relationship, we are also seeking out and have strategic partnerships. So we want to work with the unbelievably strong community college system that Wyoming has, and help them develop programs around this space, and perhaps even a pathway where community college students can then move over to the University of Wyoming to finish their education. Obviously, industry collaborations are important. Working with state agencies, like the Division of Banking, who is regulating the speedy banks and the Secretary of State's office, and certainly working with Jillian Balow's office with K-12 education, I think is something we want to very much get involved in. And there's about a dozen other universities that have blockchain centers like ours. And so by collaborating, I think we can create better programs for everyone across all universities eventually and by working with them. So Wyoming is now in a unique position because of our legislation to truly lead that effort.
KK: I think one of the big key words that comes out whenever Wyoming talks about blockchain is that what they've been doing is diversifying the economy. And I wonder, if you can explain how it will do that?
SL: If we're successful, several ways. Look, we all recognize that Wyoming right now has some budget challenges because of how the economy today has impacted power and energy. This legislation impacts that a couple of ways. First of all, by creating an enabling environment for companies with legal certainty, our goal is to have companies domiciled in the state of Wyoming. And when you domicile in the state of Wyoming, you're paying your fees to the Secretary of State's office, and it's creating revenue to the state. Many of these people will also bring jobs and jobs are certainly crucial to growing our economy. And again, as I mentioned previously, we want to have an environment where UW graduates have options where they can, stay here and live in the communities that they grew up in, and have good paying technology and finance jobs. So I think there's that opportunity as well.