Category Archives: Blockchain

EPIC Spotlight: Kathryn Carlisle

Banks are a big part of many people’s lives. They use them to receive and store their paychecks, pay their bills, take out loans and save. For most working Americans, having enough money to open and retain a checking account can be fairly easy.

But for families, farmers or entrepreneurs in developing countries, that’s a different story, says Kathryn Carlisle, senior managing director for the Blockchain Center of Excellence at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

“Banks usually require an initial balance, let’s say $50, to even open an account, and many individuals in these emerging economies don’t have the disposable income necessary,” Carlisle says. “They may be excluded from the financial system because they’re a woman or because they’re a certain ethnicity or a persecuted minority group within the system.”

Or they simply may not live near a bank.

Carlisle was working as a financial analyst at Little Rock-based Heifer International when she made the observation. Heifer International works to eradicate hunger and poverty worldwide through community development programs that give gifts of livestock and training to provide families with food and reliable income.

Finding ways for families to keep their income secure weighed heavy on Carlisle’s mind. She saw cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, as a solution. This virtual currency is based on blockchain technology, a process that uses a network of independent computers to secure a permanent record of transactions, allowing participants to verify and audit transactions inexpensively, eliminating the need for an intermediary. This method offers increased security and privacy, Carlisle says.

“I like to think of it as the democratization of money, similar to how the internet democratized information,” she says. “It’s more accessible to people all over the world.”

With the revelation, Carlisle enrolled in the online master’s digital currency program with the University of Nicosia at Cyprus, which was the first institution to offer this degree. She took courses remotely while continuing her role with Heifer by implementing blockchain initiatives and serving as blockchain and cryptocurrency content creator and strategist. The organization now embraces blockchain-enabled projects, including those benefiting Honduran coffee farmers.

Carlisle left Heifer International and started her own blockchain and cryptocurrency consulting business, Distributed Tech Partners. She then worked for a Walmart broker in Bentonville before coming to the Blockchain Center of Excellence in August 2019. The center was established in May 2018 within the Department of Information Systems at Walton with the vision of being a premiere academic leader for blockchain application research and education.

This marks Carlisle’s return to Walton. Originally from Little Rock, she graduated from the college with degrees in international business, with an accounting concentration, and Spanish. As a student, she studied abroad in Spain and Mozambique.

Last spring, Carlisle taught the special topics class Introduction to Cryptocurrency and contributes in other blockchain fundamental courses as well. She says companies already see the value of blockchain technology. It will be the future, she says, and the student demand is there. They represent all majors at Walton with some taking advantage of the Blockchain Enterprise Systems minor that is offered.

She says students have been quick to catch on to the concepts behind blockchain technology. “It was exciting to see the business ideas these students had, and they wanted to continue with after the class,” Carlisle says.

As the Blockchain Center of Excellence continues to grow, Carlisle would like to expand its resources by providing a larger professional network for its partners as well as help them solve problems through focused research. The end result is a collaboration between both Walton students and industry.

In the meantime, Carlisle is preparing for the 2020 Blockchain for Business Conference, a free event hosted by both the Blockchain Center of Excellence and Walton that takes place virtually October 1-2. It will feature industry, technology and academic experts who will share both their knowledge and experiences and interact with participants individually through video calls and chats. There will be panel discussions, industry breakout sessions and more.

Carlisle says it has been exciting to see how both Arkansas and the region is embracing blockchain. “That’s what’s been so fun: to have so many opportunities to see different forms of this technology taking off,” she says.

Blockchain in Business: What Do Companies’ 10-K Reports Say About DLT?

Three researchers from the Walton College at the University of Arkansas – Mary Lacity, Kris Allee and Yaping Zhu – looked at SEC-required reports to “examine companies’ propensity to discuss blockchains in their 10-Ks in order to measure the degree of their investment in this technology.” Continue reading Blockchain in Business: What Do Companies’ 10-K Reports Say About DLT?

Lacity Named Director of Blockchain Center of Excellence

Mary Lacity has been named to the Walton College Professorship in Information Systems and director of the Blockchain Center of Excellence effective July 1. Previously, Lacity served as Curators’ Distinguished Professor and International Business Fellow at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“I am thrilled Mary is bringing her extensive knowledge of blockchain and information systems to Walton College,” said Matt Waller, dean of the Walton College. “Walton is committed to discovering and supporting innovation surrounding blockchain, a secure online ledger which touches retail, data analytics and entrepreneurship, Walton’s primary strategic endeavors. Mary will be a huge asset to our students, faculty, college and our state.”

Lacity’s research focuses on the delivery of business and information technology services through global sourcing and automation using robotic process automation, cognitive automation and blockchains. She has conducted case studies and surveys of hundreds of organizations on their outsourcing and management practices.

“I am excited to join the Department of Information Systems as director of the Blockchain Center of Excellence. The faculty, staff, administrators and industry advisers have built something extremely relevant for our students, for Arkansas and beyond,” Lacity said. “Based on interviews in more than 30 organizations, two surveys and participant observation in a blockchain corsortium, I am convinced that blockchain technologies could generate trillions of dollars of value, but there are technical and managerial challenges that need to be addressed first. I hope that the Center of Excellence helps our students and industry partners address these issues to deliver real business and social value.”

Lacity has held visiting positions at MIT, the London School of Economics, Washington University and Oxford University. She is a Certified Outsourcing Professional®, industry adviser for Symphony Ventures, and senior editor for MIS Quarterly Executive.

Lacity has given keynote speeches and executive seminars worldwide and has served as an expert witness for the U.S. Congress. She was inducted into the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals’ Outsourcing Hall of Fame in 2014, one of only three academics ever to be inducted. She was the recipient of the 2008 Gateway to Innovation Award sponsored by the IT Coalition, Society for Information Management and St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association. She has published 28 books, most recently A Manager’s Guide to Blockchains for Business from SB Publishing, UK. Her publications have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, MIS Quarterly, MIS Quarterly Executive, IEEE Computer, Communications of the ACM and many other academic and practitioner outlets.

Lacity holds a Ph.D. in business administration, with a focus on management information systems and quantitative management science, from the University of Houston. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a focus on quantitative business analysis and economics, from Pennsylvania State University.

Walton College Establishes Blockchain Center of Excellence

Building on its history as a global leader in information systems research, the Sam M. Walton College of Business Department of Information Systems at the University of Arkansas has established the Blockchain Center of Excellence to discover and disseminate innovative uses of the emerging technology and to teach students its importance to the future of business and digital security.

Continue reading Walton College Establishes Blockchain Center of Excellence

Walton College Blockchain Initiative Named SAP Next-Gen Chapter

At an academic conference in New York, Paul Cronan, professor in the Department of Information Systems at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, and David Douglas, emeritus professor of information systems, presented details about University of Arkansas’ blockchain consortia to the SAP Academic Conference.  Continue reading Walton College Blockchain Initiative Named SAP Next-Gen Chapter