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Retired prof Carl Egan finds new career in China

New career in China for retired construction management prof.

By Neil Musolf, Free Press Correspondent [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 7/1/2011]

China is in the news a lot these days. After centuries of being what Napoleon called a “sleeping giant,” the mammoth country is waking up and the rest of the world is taking notice.

For retired Minnesota State Mankato Professor Carl Egan, China has become his home away from home.

Egan taught at Minnesota State Mankato for 25 years and was the first director of the construction management program, which he also helped develop. In 1999, Egan received mail from People to People International, a group that works toward enhancing international understanding and friendship. Egan learned that the group was putting together a delegation to visit China, specifically the Three Gorges Dam project, a hydroelectric dam that spans the Yangtze River.

Egan’s interest was two-fold: he wanted to see firsthand the steps the Chinese government had taken to relocate over 1 million people, and he wanted to see the largest construction project in modern times.

During that trip, the president of Chongqing University extended an invitation to become a visiting lecturer.

After his initial visit, Egan continued to go back. He began teaching as a visiting professor in 2005. He is now on his sixth visit as a visiting professor and his 10th trip to China. He teaches professional English and construction management.

Although the two schools are thousands of miles apart, teaching at Minnesota State Mankato and Chongqing University are similar in many ways.

The students at Chongqing University tend to arrive for class well before it actually starts. Egan describes his Chinese students as very attentive, polite and respectful. Students routinely volunteer to help with the projector used in class and the computer for PowerPoint presentations. When class is over, several students usually stay after and offer assistance with cleaning up the room, turning off the lights and electronic equipment and making sure the door is locked.

Egan has observed that the students he teaches at Chongqing University show a great sense of responsibility and respect for their teachers. Most of his students are from farming villages and do not have a lot of money. To be able to go to college is a privilege, a fact his students appear to be well aware of.

Living in China is quite different than Mankato or Tuscaloosa, Ala., Egan’s current hometown. Egan points out that he has spent most of his time in Chongqing, a city with a population of around 5.5 million.

For the complete Free Press story, see the print edition, or click on

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