Students and faculty from the Department of Construction Management pose in front of the iconic Bird's Nest Olympic stadium in Beijing, China.
East Carolina’s Department of Construction Management has established itself as one of the leading programs of its kind in the country, and for many years has prepared students to realize successful, rewarding careers in the construction industry here at home. Now, it’s gone global.
This summer, 13 students and four faculty members from ECU’s construction management department participated in an intensive, three-week study abroad program in China, the country with the greatest volume of construction currently taking place anywhere in the world.
The trip put students into the heart of the planet’s largest construction boom. A place where four of the 10 largest construction projects in the world are currently under way, where massive cranes dot the skyline of every major city, and where opportunity is an almost limitless resource. But for all of China’s rapid development and feverish growth, it is also a country with a tremendous architectural past and a legacy of epic undertakings in construction. The trip provided students with the opportunity to steep themselves in the history of their future profession dating back thousands of years.
The summer of 2008 was nothing if not memorable for China—both for triumph and tragedy. In May, a catastrophic earthquake ravaged cities in the eastern part of the country, killing an estimated 70,000 people. In August, the spectacular 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing reintroduced the world to a country that has remained largely closed to the outside world for the past 50 years.
The ECU contingent in China was led by Department of Construction Management faculty members Erich Connell, Huanqing (Happy) Lu, Danny Morton, and George Wang. While the majority of the students were also in the program, a business major and a student majoring in logistics also took part in the trip. In only three weeks, the students completed coursework for two full classes, Chinese Beauty and Tradition, and Construction in China. In return, they each received six credit hours and an unforgettable life experience.
This map shows the areas of China visited during the Department of Construction Management's study-abroad tour.
“Doing a study abroad program definitely widens your world view,” said senior Bryan Diseati, a construction management major from Clifton, Virginia. “In China, there were so many people from other parts of the world, from Europe and other places. I think getting to interact with those people is great.”
ECU has an active summer study abroad program with students from a variety of disciplines traveling all over the world. In the past, departments have offered trips to Italy, Russia, Great Britain, France, Australia, Belize, Egypt, and Japan. This summer’s trip to China was the first of its kind for the Department of Construction Management.
The group left for China on May 12 from Raleigh, North Carolina, the same day that a 7.9 magnitude earthquake decimated eastern Sichuan, China. According to the United States Geological Service, the earthquake affected more than 45.5 million people in 10 provinces and regions, killing nearly 70,000. It proved to have a dramatic effect on the trip for the entire three weeks the group was in China.
The earthquake and its aftermath reinforced the importance that building codes, and proper construction techniques have in their profession. Many of the deaths that resulted from the Sichuan earthquake, were due to building collapses. And tragically, many of the buildings that collapsed were schools. According to Morton, the collapsed buildings were mostly those constructed from concrete blocks. Some were literally next door to buildings that survived the quake. For students like Ray Harrell III, a senior construction management major from Wilson, North Carolina, the tragedy reinforced the lessons he learned in school.
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