The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 29, 2012

Artifacts a focus of MSU China trip

MANKATO — A Minnesota State University delegation visiting China next week will discuss a partnership with a Chinese professor and meet with a recruiting consultant in Beijing, among other activities.

The university released more information Thursday about its trip to China, though it lacked details on the partnerships the seven-member group intends to establish.

The partnership with professor Yang Chang relates to his extensive collection of Oriental artifacts, according to the release. Details on what services MSU has to offer a collector of artifacts weren’t available Thursday.

Mankato Mayor Eric Anderson is accompanying the MSU delegation and will sign memorandums of understanding with two Chinese cities establishing them as sister cities. The cities are Tongxiang, near the coast, and Yongcheng, about 375 miles to the northwest.

Because it takes a City Council majority to do anything substantial, Anderson’s signature can’t commit the city to spend money, City Manager Pat Hentges said.

“He can sign proclamations, that’s in essence what these are.”

The city will be paying his plane ticket, a cost of about $1,400.

Anderson was invited to join because the Chinese place a premium on the position of mayor. In reality, though, he has almost no authority by himself, just like the other six councilors.

The delegation leaves on Sunday and returns on Dec. 10, though Anderson is returning Dec. 7 to be back in time for a council vote on the budget.

The university did not confirm Thursday why these particular cities have been selected, though Hentges said Tongxiang has something to do with the artifacts.

There also appears to be an elementary education component to the trip.

The delegation is visiting a primary school in Yongcheng, and one of the attendees, Ginger Zierdt, is chair of the department of elementary and early childhood education. She is also director of the school’s center for school-university partnerships.

The delegation was invited to China by Changdong Xu, chair of the Western Returned Scholars Association Entrepreneurs Alliance, according to the release. The association is affiliated with the Chinese government.

Also traveling are Richard Davenport, president of MSU; Linda Baer, interim vice president for academic and student affairs; Doug Mayo, vice president for university advancement; Juan Meng, associate professor of marketing; and Mary Davenport, interim vice president of academic and student affairs at Riverland Community College and Richard Davenport’s wife.

The university did not have an estimate for the cost of the trip.

Last time around, though, the government ended up spending money to bolster a relationship that didn’t end up delivering. The city, MSU and the airport operator North Star Aviation together paid consultant Richard Lehmann a total of $8,000 a month for nine months. The hoped-for partnership to train Chinese helicopter pilots in Mankato never materialized, though.

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