A Day in NYU’s Course on Cryptocurrencies

Journalist:
December 15, 2014

Last week, I got the chance to sit in on New York University’s  (NYU) class on cryptocurrencies. The course, led by finance professor David Yermack and law professor Geoffrey Miller, is offered jointly by both the Stern School of Business and the NYU School of Law. As one of the only cryptocurrency courses offered in the world, these students could shape the future political and financial landscape for the cryptocommunity, both domestically and internationally.

Also read: NYU Prepares Class on Cryptocurrencies

This is the First Semester NYU has Offered this Class

I wrote about this course back in April when it was only being proposed. At the time, people were still reeling from the collapse of Mt. Gox in February, and the cryptocommunity seemed very unsure. Now, the semester has wrapped, and as the students head into finals week, the class was hugely successful.

You can read the course syllabus here.

Experiencing this Class was Transformative

As a student at New York University myself, I was aware of the prestige that comes with the Stern School of Business. The fact that Stern is offering this course opens up a level of academic legitimacy to the pursuit and open dialogue of cryptocurrency issues and solutions in the future legal and business world.

Professor Yermack told me in an interview:

“There’s a huge need for people with knowledge of the regulatory and compliance issues that, for businesses to accept and use bitcoins, there’s a real barrier to understanding exactly how to account for them and what the tax implications are for them. It just went off like a light bulb that we could train these students right here at our law school. There’s really demand in the labor market for people who know about digital currencies and we’d probably many students who’d be interested in this.”

Because this course is only offered to those in NYU’s graduate studies, the room was filled with about 20 enthusiastic and genuinely interested students who consistently offered their own opinions into the discussion. It gave the class a very unique energy because everyone, including the professors were continuously learning, especially with the constantly changing world of cryptocurrencies bringing in more news every day. In reflection, Yermack continued:

“The class really attracted an interesting set of students. […] It was a group of people who were very well acquainted with the underlying issues who probably knew more than we did about many of the topics and were very strongly opinionated in a way that led to great class discussions. […] It made the class just fun to go to every week.”

It was certainly a privilege to sit in on their final class, last week – and I wasn’t the only one; interestingly enough, with me that day was Financial Times correspondent Stephen Foley. Sitting in that classroom, I couldn’t help but feel that what was happening here – the discussions, the explorations, the growth of knowledge – would be integral to the future of the cryptocommunity.

The Future of Cryptocurrencies Depends on Education

At this point in time, NYU stands as one of the only institutions to offer a course to become intensely and academically engaged with cryptocurrencies. An alternative option may be the University of Nicosia MSc in Digital Currencies. As covered here, it is a free online course.

Images from Calvin Tran and Shutterstock.

Calvin Tran @@clvnthbld

Calvin Tran is a filmmaker attending NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. He is interested in economics as a way to see the world and inspires him to create media that illustrates the power of freedom and technology in improving all of our lives.