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To have lasting global impact, blockchain technology requires a transparent and informed collaboration between innovators, business leaders and policymakers. Can a university serve as a trusted intermediary between all three parties?
In this edition of On Campus, Professor Reena Aggarwal shares how Georgetown University is strategically using Ripple’s UBRI grant to educate future stakeholders while shaping today’s policies.
Professor Aggarwal is the Vice Provost for Faculty and the Robert E. McDonough Professor of Finance at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown. She also serves as the Director of Georgetown’s Center for Financial Markets and Policy. In this role, she specializes in global financial markets, regulation, blockchain and a number of other emerging financial technology and policy arenas.
She set the tone for our conversation by explaining Georgetown’s commitment to improving life for people globally. Serving as a link between policy and business in a global capital like Washington, D.C. affords the university a unique advantage in realizing that goal.
Georgetown’s Global Role
Professor Aggarwal believes that while higher education is primarily about shaping students and future leaders, universities must also educate policymakers and others as part of its responsibility to the global community. “Our role is also to bring policymakers and the business community together to really think about… what kinds of rules and regulations make sense,” says Aggarwal.
By leveraging the university’s capabilities, network and location, Georgetown has successfully carved out a role as a trusted advisor to help shape global financial technology policies. For example, Georgetown works closely with the Digital Chamber of Commerce, the World Economic Forum, World Bank/IFC, and other global organizations.
These organizations turn to Georgetown because the university has the perspective to dive deep on issues and present nuanced insights that are simply impossible for fast moving innovators, business leaders and policymakers to manage themselves.
Regulation is Key to Blockchain’s Potential
Professor Aggarwal believes we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible from this emerging technology. In her eyes, blockchain will ultimately deliver incredible positive impact to the global economy by improving the competitiveness of individual countries. She believes it’s the responsibility of institutions like Georgetown to help uncover this potential.
One area in which the university can do this now is to aid global regulators looking to develop policies and frameworks. “Regulators are realizing they don’t have enough in-depth information, and that means we have a role to play in helping them get up to speed,” says Professor Aggarwal.
By providing a path to synchronize policies across borders, she believes Georgetown and other universities must offer the expertise and insights that will give rise to global standards for blockchain application.
UBRI as an Interdisciplinary Asset
The university values its ability to effectively engage a wide range of stakeholders on blockchain and digital assets with perspectives from across departments as part of its research and education.
As Professor Aggarwal says “blockchain is a disruptive technology far beyond the financial sector—it’s healthcare, transportation, supply chain, immigration, government contracting and more.” By engaging teams from these industries, Georgetown can provide a deeper, more robust assessment of blockchain’s capability.
This is another area where the Ripple UBRI grant has proved valuable, enabling the University to create new bridges connecting the policy, legal and business units. As an example, she points out an upcoming financial technology course that will have both law and business students participating.
“I think it is important that law students learn more about the business side and the mindset of MBA students while the MBA students understand the policy and the regulatory side,” says Professor Aggarwal.
From her perspective, UBRI is helping to break down silos between departments within a university, creating common ground. She says that’s critical for big, global issues; it cannot be solved by one department, one unit, even one school. Professor Aggarwal believes the answers will only be found at the intersection of several disciplines.
UBRI has quickly become a core part of Georgetown’s larger strategy combining curriculum, research and its role in the world. It has helped facilitate new research, faculty opportunities, student initiatives and new courses on campus. With UBRI, students are gaining early exposure to real-world business issues—helping make them more competitive for jobs and ensuring the University’s future role in global policy making.
Interested in hearing more perspectives from Professor Aggarwal? At Ripple’s inaugural UBRI Connect conference, she will take the stage to discuss current domestic and global regulation of blockchain technologies and highlight Georgetown’s role in guiding and informing policymakers.
Look for upcoming Insights posts featuring UBRI Connect speakers including Professor Aggarwal and many more voices from the academic community. To learn more about UBRI, please visit our UBRI website.
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