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ASU receives 1st cryptocurrency gift to support clean air work

Gift to benefit ASU's Clean Indoor Air Project in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Woman speaking to two students as they assebmle an air filtration unit.

ASU Associate Professor Megan Jehn advises students as they assemble a Corsi-Rosenthal air filtration box during the spring 2022 semester.

August 15, 2022

As cryptocurrency continues to gain popularity for individuals looking to diversify their investment portfolios, it is also gaining traction as new way for people to give back. Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change recently accepted its first cryptocurrency gift exchanged for U.S. dollars.

“We continually look for innovative ways to enhance the donor experience and meet donors where they are,” ASU Foundation Chief Investment Officer Jeff Mindlin said. “It’s a natural evolution to think that the next generation of donors would give cryptocurrency to support ASU.”

The university opened cryptocurrency as an opportunity for giving in November 2021. In addition to cryptocurrency, ASU provides many non-cash asset ways to give, including stocks, bonds, fine art, real estate, closely held companies and life insurance. These additional giving options enable the foundation to support the many ways donors want to give.

The first cryptocurrency donation to the university is a $300,000 gift from Balvi, a direct giving fund established by Vitalik Buterin, the co-creator of Ethereum. This donation will support ASU's Clean Indoor Air Project, a public health initiative focused on increasing awareness about the importance of indoor air quality, improving access to portable indoor air cleaners and evaluating the performance of DIY air cleaners in under-ventilated K–12 classroom environments.  

According to their website, Balvi is a scientific investment and direct gifting fund established for the purpose of deploying funds quickly to high-value COVID-19 projects that traditional institutional or commercial funding sources tend to overlook.

ASU's Clean Indoor Air Project has worked extensively to slow the transmission of COVID-19, including building and testing 275 Corsi-Rosenthal (CR) air filtration boxes that are being used in 21 cities throughout Arizona.

According to Megan Jehn, epidemiologist and associate professor of global health at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, the funds from this gift will be put to immediate use in support of ASU's Clean Indoor Air Project, which she leads.

“The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is expected to ease COVID guidelines in coming days while encouraging schools to do more to clean and refresh indoor air to slow disease transmission and improve health and productivity. Our work aligns well with this national call to action,” Jehn said.

“With this generous gift, we will be purchasing state-of-the art MODULAIR-PM air quality monitors from QuantAQ, Inc for Valley classrooms, partnering with local school districts to evaluate the effectiveness of DIY air cleaners in K–12 classrooms, creating new outreach and dissemination efforts through a Clean Air Ambassadors program for high school students, and launching a citizen science project with our local public libraries through SciStarter.”

SciStarter is an online hub created for the purpose of enabling people to learn about, participate in and contribute to science through research efforts and citizen science opportunities.

“Citizen science enables people of all ages, cultures and skills to engage in real scientific research by collecting or analyzing data that is shared with professional scientists, while provenly increasing public understanding of science,” said Darlene Cavalier, founder of SciStarter and professor of practice at ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

The partnership between ASU's Clean Indoor Air Project and SciStarter will enable 10 libraries in Arizona to add to their suite of citizen science kits to circulate a total of 50 carbon dioxide monitors, along with step-by-step instructions for participants to identify indoor areas with poor ventilation. The information gathered through this program will be shared locally and globally.

“The data will be used by decision-makers, scientists and the public to better understand where there are problems and how to take action,” Cavalier said.

Funding from Balvi’s gift will also support ASU student interns to help in the design of K–12 lesson plans, data tracking, as well as support ongoing efforts to build and deploy DIY air cleaners to communities in need.

“This gift is incredibly valuable to our team because we are in the midst of a fast-moving pandemic and the funds allow us to study innovative ideas to improve indoor air quality to slow the spread of disease,” Jehn said.

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