KU students, industry professionals connect at blockchain conference

Posted on Dec 12, 2019 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

KU blockchain conference

A spring semester gift to the University of Kansas is already paying dividends.

On Feb. 7, Silicon Valley financial technology company Ripple awarded a $2 million grant to KU as part of the University Blockchain Research Initiative​. The program focuses on accelerating academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments at top universities.

Ripple is led by Brad Garlinghouse, c’94, who serves as CEO of the San Francisco-based cryptocurrency and digital-payment processing firm.

One of the programs benefiting from the grant is the KU Blockchain Institute, a student-led organization that focuses on advancing KU’s standing in the fast- developing field of blockchain. The group is open to students from all disciplines, including engineering, business, economics, mathematics, science, health care and technology.

Daniel Jones, a senior from Owasso, Oklahoma, is president and co-founder of the KU Blockchain Institute. His interest in blockchain was sparked by attending industry conferences and studying abroad.

“I was able to network with seasoned professionals who seemed adamant that blockchain technology would be a huge disruption for their industry,” Jones says. “I remember thinking, ‘If these executives are so worried about this technology, maybe I should check it out.’ Incumbent firms may see blockchain as a major disruption, but the KU Blockchain Institute sees blockchain as a serious opportunity for student entrepreneurs to challenge the status quo.”

Daniel Jones, Brad Garlinghouse and Jack SchraadDaniel Jones, Brad Garlinghouse and Jack Schraad, co-founder and vice president of the KU Blockchain Institute

Since its launch in August 2018, the KU Blockchain Institute has hosted three large conferences, including an October 2019 conference on cybersecurity. Speakers from FedEx, Lockheed Martin, the University of Arkansas and IBM attended, as well as Garlinghouse.

So what exactly is blockchain?

“Blockchain uses applied mathematics and cryptography to create trust in any transaction,” Jones explains. “Blockchain is a verifiable data structure that creates trust or traceability through a transfer of value. The transfer of value takes place through a transaction around a digital asset. ​A digital asset can represent any piece of physical property or store of value.”

“Using distributed ledger technology, blockchain creates a direct peer-to-peer exchange system for the transfer of value. Blockchain is to value what the internet is to information.”

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Generous alumnus helps launch Jayhawk Career Network

Posted on Dec 11, 2018 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

Brad GarlinghouseWhen Brad Garlinghouse was promoted to senior vice president at Yahoo! in 2006, he was already known for his industry connections. Having previously served in management roles at SBC Communications, AOL and Hightail, a file-sharing service, Garlinghouse’s new position, which put him in charge of “Communications, Communities, and Front Doors,” seemed a perfect fit for the Topeka native.

More than a decade later, Garlinghouse, now CEO of San Francisco-based cryptocurrency and digital-payment processing firm Ripple, continues to foster critical connections. In 2017, he generously donated $250,000 to the Alumni Association to help launch the Jayhawk Career Network, a multifaceted program that links students and alumni and provides career resources for Jayhawks at every life stage.

“KU helped my career take flight, and there is no doubt that I still highly value and lean on my KU network,” says Garlinghouse, c’94, a Life member. “I think the Jayhawk Career Network can replicate and expand upon my fortunate experience for lots of current and future Jayhawks. I’m pleased to be able to lend a hand in its success.”

Thanks to Garlinghouse’s significant investment, the Association hired Kristi Durkin Laclé, c’99, to oversee the new initiative, and in 2018 launched KU Mentoring, an online, career-focused platform that connects students and alumni through long-term and one-time mentorships. The program also hosts networking events across the country and will introduce opportunities for job shadowing, internships and employment in the coming months.

Garlinghouse has a strong history of supporting student interests and development. This past spring, Ripple donated a whopping $29 million to fund every campaign on the education-crowdfunding platform DonorsChoose.org. It was the largest single donation since the site launched in 2000, and it fulfilled more than 35,000 school and classroom projects nationwide.

Despite his overwhelming success in Silicon Valley, Garlinghouse, a 2015 recipient of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ Distinguished Alumni Award, remains true to his Kansas roots and serves as an inspiration to all Jayhawks—on the Hill and beyond.

“Good ideas can come from anywhere,” Garlinghouse says. “I mean, brilliant people come from every walk of life. And that talent can come from anywhere geographically.”

For more stories on Jayhawks like Garlinghouse and to learn more about the successes of the Alumni Association this year, read our annual report.

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