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Student Experiences

The New Frontier of Finance

In the Classroom

“My daughter asked me one day how Bitcoin worked, and I was embarrassed that I couldn’t explain it to her,” says finance professor Todd Mitton. As he studied up on decentralized finance, Mitton developed enough expertise to explain it not only to his daughter but also to a classroom of students. In a newly created section of Finance 490R: Topics in Finance, Mitton now shares the basics and the beauties of this emerging, revolutionary field.

Image showing money and bitcoin

Mitton says that in traditional banking, financial transactions are often expensive, slow, or simply inaccessible. He gives the example of a typical credit card purchase, which carries a 3 percent fee paid jointly by the customer and the merchant. And although the purchase feels instantaneous, the transaction actually takes a day or two to post.

Aside from these inconveniences, many people can’t even purchase on credit. Mitton points out, “There are about one and a half billion people who have no access to financial services because they live in countries where those services are just not available to them.”

These realities made an impression on Jeremy Remer when he took Mitton’s class in 2023. Remer, a Colorado native and recent finance grad, realized that “a lot of people in developing countries don’t have birth certificates, so they’ll never be able to have access to a bank account or transfer large amounts of money easily.”

In Mitton’s course, students learn how decentralized finance addresses some of these challenges by shifting financial transactions from banks to blockchain networks—secure digital systems shared across a network of participants. This technology has the potential to make transactions instantaneous, low cost, and—most importantly—accessible to anyone with internet access.

Decentralized finance technology has the potential to make transactions instantaneous, low cost, and accessible to anyone with internet access.

“For someone in Venezuela or Zimbabwe who is suffering from rampant inflation or in places where assets are unstable, this is potentially a life-changing technology,” Mitton explains. “It allows everyone to more fairly and freely participate in financial services.”

Remer says that as the course deepened his knowledge of alternative finance platforms, it simultaneously prepared him for his post-graduation job in traditional banking. “The course really broke down what every entity needs to do to make the financial system function,” he says. “It helped me better understand everything going on in the traditional finance world and broadened my perspective on how that world could be more efficient.”

As Mitton now teaches the class for a second time, the content—like the field itself—continues to evolve. “We’re exploring the frontier of financing,” he says. “This is the newest stuff out there.”

And while the cutting-edge factor is important, Mitton’s deepest hope is that the course will equip students with more tools to transform the world. “They’re learning things that have the potential to lift up people in the poorest parts of the world,” Mitton says. “To me, that’s the most exciting thing about decentralized finance.”


Written by Shannon Keeley