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MBA Students Must Be Curious About Blockchain Technology—And Here’s Why

Kogod School of Business MBA, Emma Garnick, says blockchain will have an “astronomical” impact on the business world. At Kogod, she's at the forefront of the blockchain knowledge hub


Fri Oct 26 2018

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but there’s no chance it’ll be finishing off MBA students any time soon.

Indeed, curiosity is what led Emma Garnick into the world of emerging technology, specifically blockchain. She’s a current MBA student at American University’s Kogod School of Business, and her interest was sparked during an information technology course taught at the school. 

“One day we had a speaker named Nikhil Shenoy,” she recalls, “who left his marketing career to start a blockchain company that was focusing on changing government processes.

“His passion about the technology and the opportunities blockchain could create in a multitude of fields was catching, and I have been deep-diving into the technology ever since.”

American University pioneered its first class on the technology—Blockchain in the Global Economy—this semester, taught by professor Ayman Omar. Next semester will see the launch of the Survey of Blockchain course. 

Emma says she feels incredibly lucky to be focusing on blockchain in an environment that is at the vanguard of the technology. Indeed, in an effort to consolidate a hub of knowledge around the topic, American University is hosting a Blockchain Forum on November 7th. 

The forum will include speeches from industry thought leaders, discussions around current live projects, and practical ways to incorporate the technology in a multitude of sectors.

“This is a big moment for the university and for the DC community to share in the experiential learning and research platform being created here,” Emma explains.

Blockchain, Emma says, is going to have an “astronomical” impact on the business world. More and more organizations, she adds, are using the technology to smooth out internal processes, and reduce friction within their supply chains.

Emma has a wealth of non-profit experience and is currently interning for The Future of Privacy Forum, a non-profit organization that explores the challenges surfaced by emerging technologies, and looks to develop privacy protections, ethical norms, and workable business practices for the future. 

She adds that there is the potential for blockchain to seep into the non-profit and social enterprise space, too.

“From banking the unbanked, collaboration between humanitarian aid organizations, accountability of funding, identity, and property rights, blockchain has the ability to fulfil many social missions,” she says. 

Alongside her internship and MBA studies, Emma is co-writing an article with Ayman Omar—professor of Blockchain in the Global Economy on the Kogod MBA—on the use of blockchain in disaster relief.    

Ayman, who is also a research fellow at the Kogod Cybersecurity Governance Center, says that the potential for the technology in this space is huge.

He cites the example of someone displaced who is looking for a bed to sleep in for the night. Through blockchain that person can not only identify shelters where beds are, but can also receive real-time information on where beds are still available. 

That trust is coupled with the avoidance of fraud, relatable to meal supply for those affected by natural disasters, or the homeless in cities around the world.

“[With any current system], you could show up as Thomas the first time, then the second time you are Jim, then Ayman,” he says, “and you get all of those meals and sell them on the black market.

“With blockchain you can add security and trust to that. No one can go into the system, as the information is in the ledger forever.”

The potential may be clear for all to see, but the implementation of the technology is easier said than done. Ayman explains that it needs to be clear that blockchain must fit around current business practices; it is counterproductive for a company to change its ways for the sake of implementing the technology, he says.

It is for that reason that the structure of the Blockchain in the Global Economy course is geared towards experiential learning. Students learn by doing, the only way to truly get to grips with an “emerging phenomenon”.

They participate in group live projects with clients in the space, relaying their feedback at the end of the course.

For MBA students, globally as well as those at the Kogod School of Business, getting over the initial hurdle of wondering why blockchain is so integral to entire business processes is tantamount to their own and their employer’s successful implementation of the technology. 

“Understanding blockchain fundamentally could enhance a lot of business processes in the future, and if you’re an MBA student, how could you not want to know something like this?” Ayman asks.

“What’s critical and where the biggest gap is out there is people who can come into an organization and understand and talk about [blockchain’s relation to] the business processes, and that’s where our MBAs will be heading.”

The American University's Kogod School of Business Blockchain Forum will take place on November 7th 2018

Student Reviews

Kogod School of Business - American University




On Campus

Clean and well maintained campus

I am completely enamored with this school. The entire student body is driven, inclusive, and highly intelligent. The decision to attend American University is not made haphazardly. Its close proximity to Washington DC, making it one of the most strategically located schools after Georgetown, means it's just a short train ride away. The campus is well-maintained, with mostly attractive buildings, although there are a few that are less appealing. Additionally, there are numerous excellent food options available. The wide range of clubs and organizations to join is remarkable. It is undeniably a school filled with immense passion.




On Campus

City life

I’m having a wonderful time at American University. I love that I can get to a big city and still feel like a traditional campus. Sincerely, it is a school that may require some adjusting to, but in the end, it is a very good school with numerous opportunities for its students. The atmosphere in AU is so great that it pushes you in a positive way and offers every opportunity you could want.




On Campus

Amazing helpful professors

American College is an incredible school with astounding teachers. Best professors I could have asked for at an amazing school. My opinion is that American University's professors are its greatest asset. They are extremely intelligent and always eager to assist their students. They go above and beyond in their classes to make sure that their students do their best.




On Campus

AU Review

The workload is quite high and AU is definitely not an "easy" school. Students take their studies very seriously and can almost always find a group in the library, DAV, Starbucks or MGC. Courses can be quite ambitious if the right courses are offered and the admissions process can be confusing at times, but with the help of an advisor it is quite easy to navigate. The library can be crowded, and while it's not huge, there are plenty of other places to study on campus. The professors really want to help during office hours and interact with students. I've had good experiences with the professors and workload at AU, but it's an expensive city.




On Campus

Majoring in Political and International Relations

The instructors are unique and the classes can be boring at times. Check-in is stressful (but it is everywhere). The workload is what I expected. The most popular majors are international relations and political science




On Campus

I Love Being A Musical Theater Major

I love being a musical theater student, if you want to help behind the scenes, if you want to be an assistant director, if you want to be a director, if you want to write, you can do anything at this academy, very supportive, it's amazing, they are always there to help you. This is their working time. Even after the audition tells you what you did wrong, you can do better, or if you get picked, you know why they picked you, which is great




On Campus

AU's Business Model

Overall, there were a lot of good opportunities at UA, both in terms of course range and faculty. However, I had a few complete misfires. People who shouldn't have taught at all. Like all universities, AU's business model is to hire hands-on assistants so they don't have to pay them extra or perform well. They are signed and if that does not work, they are not hired any more. The problem with this is that you end up with people who are unqualified and bring their own agendas, biases that may or may not be based on research. Most of the professors were absolutely fantastic.




On Campus

AU - The Real Problem With Academics

Some teachers are amazing, some awful - typical of any school. But the real problem with AU is that many students don't care about academics as much as other things (eg, partying). The academics are really interrupted by the Greek life and the social life of the students. This makes it difficult for students interested in academics to get the most out of their school experience. Some students do not take classes seriously and do not respect teachers and other students. Courses and opportunities at UA are perfect for people who want to take advantage




On Campus

American University - The Best Place to Study

They know their stuff - I chose American University because the campus is beautiful and the biology program is relatively small. But after the first semester, I realized that all the professors, especially the people in the science department, are experts in their field. They are enthusiastic and helpful in lecturing; even the TAs who teach the labs are amazing and engaging.