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Cornell Approves First Bitcoin Degree—Pioneers Independent Bitcoin Study

Walter Swift

ByWalter Swift

Jan 26, 2024
Cornell Approves First Bitcoin Degree—Pioneers Independent Bitcoin Study

In a landmark achievement for Bitcoin education, the Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences has officially approved the first Bitcoin major for former CogSci student Ella Hough through its College Scholar Program. The major will work through an interdisciplinary amalgamation framework, covering subjects like Cognitive Science, Psychology, and Economics, among others.

Ella Hough, a former Cognitive Science student at Cornell University, announced the achievement on her personal X (formerly known as Twitter) handle on January 23, 2024, detailing how she submitted the proposal for an independent study program on Bitcoin multiple times before it was finally approved earlier this month.


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The Bitcoin enthusiast will now embark on an independent study program through the College Scholar Program of the University, typically involving interdisciplinary amalgamation and intensive study of resources related to her major. Ella will (expectedly) present and defend an honors thesis on her major (Bitcoin) by 2025 for the first official Bitcoin degree award in history.

What is the Program Like?

While the major is officially Bitcoin, it is essential to note that the College of Arts and Sciences currently does not offer Bitcoin as a program. However, she only got approval to major in Bitcoin through a somewhat unique College Scholar Program.

The College Scholar Program is designed (specifically) for students like Ella with interests in fields not covered by the regular disciplinary boundaries. In the program, students are tasked with designing their curriculum, possibly amalgamating it with existing disciplines in the school.

The Bitcoin major, for instance, will see Ella take courses in Cognitive Science, Psychology, Philosophy, Information Science, Economics, History, and Government, among others. Additionally, Ella will (expectedly) work with a faculty advisor to supervise her largely independent study and oversee her theses throughout the major.


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Students in the College Scholar Program can double major, but it does not seem like Ella Hough is interested in going that route. Over the next two years, the Bitcoin enthusiast will dedicate most of her time to Bitcoin research, producing a project and a thesis to earn her the Bitcoin degree.

About Her Journey to the First Bitcoin Degree

Ella Hough detailed her journey to becoming the first independent Bitcoin scholar on her official X handle, and she did not have it easy. According to her account, she submitted the first proposal for her Bitcoin major on October 31, 2022, but would not receive the necessary nod to start her study until January 2024.

“Over the past 15 months, I’ve written proposals (and more proposals), emails, letters to the President and Board of Trustees, in-person meetings, Zoom meetings,” she recounted, appreciating the pushback she received along the way as opportunities for learning.

Ella’s journey initially received some pushback, including from the cryptocurrency community. The most recurring concern is about the laser-focused nature of her major. Many observers believe going broader, like studying cryptocurrency generally, is more rewarding than focusing on Bitcoin.

Cornell Approves the First Official Bitcoin Club

In addition to the revolutionary approval for her Bitcoin degree, Cornell University also approved a separate application by the Bitcoin enthusiast to create a Bitcoin club within the university dubbed Cornell Bitcoin Club, with membership currently open to anyone on the school campus.

With a mission to encourage Bitcoin exploration and adoption by students on the Cornell University campus, Ella Hough described founding the club as a “humanitarian imperative affecting generations, present and future.”

Cornell University is Bullish on Bitcoin

Cornell University’s pro-Bitcoin moves did not start with the approval of the first Bitcoin-focused degree. Late last year, the university launched a study suggesting Bitcoin mining could accelerate the shift towards renewable energy, a research effort that gained popularity among Bitcoin enthusiasts.

In the study, Cornell researchers suggested that introducing economic incentives for miners using clean energy will accelerate a shift to renewable energy usage for Bitcoin mining.

Ella Hough’s degree approval came a few weeks after the study. While the two events might be unrelated, they imply a welcome pro-Bitcoin tilt by the school management that may have wide-ranging effects on how academia, across the board, views cryptocurrencies.


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Walter Swift

Walter Swift

Walter Swift is an adept crypto writer, known for his deep insights into the decentralized world. His pieces artfully break down complex blockchain topics, making them accessible to a broad audience. With a passion for emerging technologies, Walter's articles are a beacon for crypto enthusiasts and novices alike.

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