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Engineering Better Business Practices

By Nancy Ridgeway

Dr. James Adrian, Bradley professor of civil engineering and construction since 1972, is serving as the U.S. construction education expert for the U.S.-China Business Council Best Practices Exchange. Established by former President George W. Bush through the Department of State, Department of Commerce, and China, the Best Practices Exchange is designed to improve business liaisons between the two countries in the areas of construction and engineering.

Leaders in the construction industry nominated Adrian for the position, because his experience goes beyond the classroom. The author of 16 college textbooks, Adrian is a productivity and cost consultant for major construction projects worldwide, including the Big Dig project in Boston, the Golden Gate Bridge upgrade in San Francisco, a U.S. Air Force base in Egypt, the underground railroad “Tube” system in London, and oil refinery off-shore drilling in Dubai.

Jim Adrian

Adrian is a consultant for four of the largest construction and engineering corporations in the world: Bechtel, Black and Veatch, Parsons, and Fluor. He comments, “If thereís a big project in the States or if one of my clients is involved in an overseas project, Iím probably involved in some way.”

Discussing the founding of the Best Practices Exchange, Adrian explains, “China has violated business practices, and still, weíve had open arms, allowing their companies to do business here. Since March 2004, only one U.S. construction and engineering company has been allowed in China. Many others have been prevented from doing business there. The Department of Interior is trying to handle this professionally and work toward establishing criteria for businesses in both countries.”

The overall goal of the Best Practices Exchange is to share visions of what the best business practices would be in both countries and to see that companies follow the resulting criteria. Giving an example, Adrian says, “In our country, construction and engineering companies must have financial bonding. Thatís not required in China.”

As these practices are considered, Adrianís role is to encourage policies that ensure companies will be required to present evidence of ongoing education in order to be eligible to conduct business in both countries. Joint forums with leading experts and organizations from both countries were held in China in June 2007; in Washington, D.C., in March 2008; and in China in December 2008.

Adrian hopes his involvement will bring added prestige to Bradley. He says, “The China Best Practices assignment has allowed me to put the Bradley name into China, which should ultimately help us and our students.”

While he has many external duties, Adrian still enjoys his role as a professor more than any other. In addition to teaching in the classroom, alumni seek his advice. For instance, Judy Cousins Thomas í76, purchasing manager for The Valley Group in Rock Island, recommended Adrian as a consultant for some of the firmís larger highway projects. Thomas was the only female in Adrianís senior class when she attended Bradley. Now, an average of six females enroll in the class.

He concludes, “It gives me great pride to see students rise to be leaders in the industry. I am so proud of our students and what many have achieved. I especially enjoy working with students who may not be ĎAí students, but by using their education, innovation, and respect for others, they have graduated and achieved successful careers. We are very fortunate at Bradley. The majority of our students are career focused. While I am busy with many efforts, including consulting, speaking, and writing, it is the role of teacher and mentor that gives me the most gratification.”

Engineering Better Business PracticesProject Asia UpdateImproving Doctor Training
Tetrahymena Gets its Own “Wiki”STEM ScholarsBU AwardsGrant Activity