Alumna Natalie Craig's Blossoming International Business Career

Alumna Natalie Craig's Blossoming International Business Career

HNC and SAIS alumni pursue a wide variety of careers in the public and private sectors. A recent HNC alumna has found her path in international business at a familiar company, the Walmart corporation.

Natalie Craig
HNC Certificate '20 + SAIS MA '21
Location: Northwest Arkansas
Current Position: Global Leverage Buyer at the Sam's Club Home Office

Tell us about your career and your current role.

After graduating from SAIS, I took a role at Walmart as a buyer for Walmart US in the oral care department. This allowed me to learn a lot about the business and also shaped a path towards my current position. I am currently at Sam's Club as a liaison between Sam's US, China, and Mexico. I get to work between these three markets as a buyer in the freezer, cooler, and deli area where I help to share cultural insights, source products for the markets, and leverage our scale to provide the best value to our members.

How did you become interested in China and what drew you to the HNC?

Two of my best friends growing up were adopted from China, so when the opportunity to study Chinese became available in middle school, one of my friends and I decided to try it together. I ultimately loved studying the language and was fascinated with the culture. I went to China for the first time when I was 16 and lived with a host family, which was a very growing and foreign experience for someone from Tulsa, Oklahoma who had never been out of the country before. This curiosity propelled me towards future study of the language and culture at the University of Kansas. When I heard about the HNC, I was immediately intrigued by the opportunity take international relations coursework for a year taught in Mandarin. All my language studies prior had purely been focused on learning the language, not applying it to studying a specific area or topic. The HNC was the perfect opportunity to be challenged intellectually and live in a community focused on China studies.

How often do you use Chinese in your current position or other skills you gained while studying at the HNC?

I mostly use my spoken Chinese when I travel to China (about three times per year in my current role) and occasionally on monthly calls with our China team. I read Chinese at least three times a week when looking over documentation and data for items that we are reviewing. 

What is a favorite memory of yours from your time at the HNC?

The Halloween party! As a member of the Banwei, I helped plan and throw the Halloween party. It was such a fun and memorable time. I especially loved getting to bring together both Chinese and International students to create an inclusive event that broke through cultural boundaries. 

Tell us about your proudest accomplishment as a student at the HNC.

There were a lot of accomplishments that I was proud of. So many things felt like a milestone to me while I was there –– my first academic paper in Chinese, my first presentation, being able to play werewolf in Mandarin and keep up with the Chinese students. I think one that I am most proud of is a paper I wrote in my 1949后的中国历史 class. It was a historical fiction assignment that was based on a reading. I felt like I truly immersed myself in the story while writing it and was able to create a character with emotional depth in my second language. As someone who has always loved history and creative writing, it was so rewarding to be able to do this in Chinese!

What is one piece of advice you have for current or future HNC students?

To press in during your time there. Eat lunch in the cafeteria and sit with different people each time. Enjoy the community because it truly is unique and you won't find anything else like it! 

Edited by Sam Trizza, Cert+MAIR '25