By Dan Linehan
The Free Press
A delegation of Minnesota State University officials and the mayor of Mankato are visiting China on Dec. 2 to establish partnerships and recruit.
The university was not much more specific than that Wednesday; it was unclear which cities in China would be visited or what the delegation will do, specifically.
It appears, though, that the trip will have something to do with a long-standing relationship between MSU President Richard Davenport and Changdong Xu, a Chinese businessman.
The university's statement on the trip says that Davenport and others are going to China at the invitation of the Western Returned Scholars Association. As of the summer of 2011, Xu was the chairman of that group.
The university's last collaboration with Xu -- a plan to train Chinese helicopter pilots in Mankato -- never came to fruition.
Mankato Mayor Eric Anderson said the city of Mankato may be a party to any agreements, though another reason for his inclusion is the prestige that the Chinese often assign to mayors.
"Everything that has been stamped into me from Day 1 is: They look to the mayor. They look to the mayor. They look to the mayor," Anderson said.
He said the city will pay for his plane ticket, about $1,400, and the delegation will pay other expenses.
The university's statement also said "sister-city" relationships would be established with the cities the delegation visits. It added that Davenport would negotiate and sign a memorandum of understanding with the "World Orientat Study Center." Internet searches didn't come up with such a center in China, even when "Oriental" was spelled correctly, and a university spokesman declined to say what it was.
Most of the delegation will return Dec. 10, though Anderson will return on Dec. 7 to make it back in time for a Dec. 10 vote on the city budget.
Also attending are Linda Baer, interim vice president for academic and student affairs; Ginger Zierdt, director of the Center for School-University Partnerships; Doug Mayo, vice president for university advancement; Davenport's wife, Mary and an associate professor of marketing.