The Time for Progress is Now

Fostering Blockchain Innovation at HBCUs with UBRI

Feature Image

Over the last six years, Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) has helped put in place a vital foundation and learning environment for the next generation of blockchain engineers. 

With more than 50 university partners across 26 countries, over 600 new or expanded fintech courses, and 1,500 academic blockchain research projects, UBRI has set the standard for blockchain education, research and inclusive economic growth. 

As part of that, UBRI’s recently renewed $1.05 million partnership with Morgan State University builds upon its initial work with the University and highlights the program’s commitment to supporting blockchain innovators across America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). 

This funding will deepen the remarkable milestones achieved as a result of Ripple’s earlier grant to Morgan State and create opportunities for new programming and research for students and faculty.

Eric van Miltenburg, SVP Strategic Initiatives at Ripple, emphasized the significance of this partnership: “The appetite for crypto and blockchain knowledge from our next generation is growing, and the HBCUs in the UBRI network are paving the way to ensure that interest is supported. We’re excited to see how Morgan State continues to empower its students and launch ambitious projects that will diversify the XRP Ledger ecosystem for years to come.”

Partners in Growth & Innovation

Beginning in 2018, the Morgan State and UBRI partnership has expanded its technological bandwidth, established new standards of academic excellence and fostered a culture of innovation. 

It also spawned innovative programming like the student-led MorganHacks, which drew roughly 150 students from seven HBCUs this year and featured an XRP Ledger (XRPL) workshop and Finance Challenge Statement from Ripple. The winning submission, CarbonKarma, uses decentralized, community-driven incentives to reward travelers for choosing sustainable options.

With this latest grant, Morgan State seeks to amplify these efforts, engage other HBCUs and combine collaborative research and real-world applied learning opportunities to cultivate a pipeline of diverse, skilled and highly trained professionals ready to thrive in enterprise blockchain jobs. 

Proposed activities include cutting-edge research endeavors that push the boundaries of technology; faculty-led projects intersecting blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML); XRPL development workshops and programs; and an annual national blockchain and fintech conference.

Ali Emdad, Ph.D., Interim Dean for the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management and director of the National FinTech Center said: "We are immensely grateful for Ripple's ongoing support through the UBRI grant, which significantly enhances Morgan's National FinTech Center programs. This partnership will spark numerous innovative, collaborative research and development projects, creating a transformative impact across more than 60 HBCUs and fostering an inclusive and creative educational environment. We are committed to continuously developing and leading programs that prepare our students to engage in and lead in the rapidly evolving fields of Blockchain, FinTech, and the emerging possibilities of AI. We are excited to explore further the endless potential of our students and faculty at Morgan and across our HBCU network."

Leading By Example

At the heart of the partnership with UBRI is Morgan State’s National FinTech Center, the hub of the HBCU Blockchain and FinTech Network. The University has expanded the Center’s reach, providing programs that have impacted over 60 participating HBCUs. 

Now, with the establishment of the National Center for the Study of Blockchain and FinTech Operations and the renewed UBRI grant, Morgan State aims to advance a cross-disciplinary strategy that deeply integrates data analytics, AI and ML into blockchain research and education.

UBRI’s partnership has also enabled Morgan State and the National FinTech Center to enlist other HBCUs in generating research, conferences and scholarships. Florida A&M University (FAMU), for example, has hosted several blockchain certification workshops and hands-on labs for over 100 students in engineering, computer science and IT through its collaboration with the Center. 

Shonda L. Bernadin, PhD, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at FAMU, credits the partnership for building up their research efforts.

“Our participation in the National FinTech Center at Morgan State University in partnership with the UBRI at Ripple has been instrumental in supporting a solid learning environment for blockchain education and research at FAMU. Not only have we been able to build a platform for students to learn about blockchain jobs and technologies, but we have been able to conduct productive research in deepfake analysis using blockchain technologies,” said Bernadin.

Shaping the Future of Finance & Technology

As blockchain continues to thrive within academia, UBRI will only expand its support for cutting-edge research, technical development and innovation in blockchain and crypto on campuses around the world. 

Its renewed partnership with Morgan State will help cultivate a new crop of leaders equipped with the knowledge and skills to navigate the evolving digital economy and ensure that HBCUs remain at the forefront of innovation.

Learn more about UBRI through our Highlights Report and All About Blockchain podcast to explore research and the blockchain industry prowess of our global academic partners.

Related stories