Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business will give all 350 of its alumni who graduated in 2020 a coin commemorating their academic experience cut short by the Covid pandemic — along with a non-fungible token.
The class of 2020 will finally walk the graduation stage on Saturday. Patricia Grant, the business school’s senior associate dean of the undergraduate program, wanted to create a unique gift this year for the students.
“We always like to give something that is educational and will help to spur and inspire the interest in lifelong learning,” Grant said. “We want it to be something that they can hold onto. NFTs tend to be focused on collectibles.”
Non-fungible tokens are digital crypto assets that are valued for their uniqueness, and are accessible through blockchain technology. Experts compare them to digital forms of collectible items like baseball cards. NFTs — because they’re unique, with specific digital identifiers — can be sold via the blockchain. Galleries and individual artists have sold artwork, musicians have auctioned their albums, and Jack Dorsey minted his first tweet — all as NFTs, which have sold for millions of dollars.
The value of Georgetown’s first NFT? “Priceless,” Grant said.
In March, she connected with James Azar and Julian Oquendo, two Georgetown MBA candidates who have now concluded their first year and recently co-founded a start-up called Reservoir, designed to help bridge higher education institutions with their Web3, cryptocurrency and NFT needs. 
The front of the coin has an image of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order to which Georgetown is connected as a Jesuit university. The back of the coin shows the Rafik B. Hariri building, where the business school is housed on campus.
John LaRue, the university’s art director, created the design for the physical coin, which was copied as a digital asset by Reservoir. Azar and Oquendo then went through the process of creating the digital 3D version, which is uploaded to the blockchain via Polygon, an Ethereum platform.
Georgetown’s business school specifically chose Polygon because of its focus on environmental sustainability, which aligns with the institution’s mission and the business school’s interest in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments, Grant said. Blockchain technology requires an immense amount of computing power to process cryptocurrencies and can be carbon intensive.
Oquendo said that he and Azar minted the 350 NFTs, and is in the process of creating digital records of ownership that can’t be changed by anyone except the owner.
“Essentially, what you’re doing is deploying data to a blockchain,” Oquendo said. “In our example, we are deploying data 350 times for the 350 students that are receiving this NFT, and they will forever live on the Polygon blockchain.”
The business school announced the gift Wednesday, along with the instructions to set up their digital wallets using Polygon. Out of those students who have filled out the necessary forms to register their wallets and receive the NFT, 70% already had digital wallets or use Web3 technology, Azar said. 
“We hope that that coin together represents so many memories that they made here on the Hilltop and helps them to really cherish in a different way their time as business students preparing to become business leaders, which they now are,” Grant said.
The university and Reservoir formed a “creative agreement” outlining the services that the company would handle through the process in exchange for the cost of building, minting and distributing the NFTs, Azar said. Grant, as well as Azar, declined to share the cost.
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