HNC Alumni Profile: Sam Brummitt

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Sam Brummitt, HNC Certificate 2013 and SAIS MA 2014, reflects back on his time at the HNC and his experience working for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Tell us about your current role.
I'm an International Trade Analyst in the International Trade Administration, one of several agencies under the U.S. Department of Commerce. I work in a unit called Enforcement and Compliance, which investigates unfair trade practices, such as cases of foreign governments providing subsidies or loans that discriminate against U.S. companies, foreign products being "dumped" into the U.S. market, and WTO compliance issues. In addition to working on several customs issues related to imports from China, right now I am working on cases with India, South Korea, Turkey, and Italy. Chinese language skills are invaluable in my job as the U.S. government has more unfair trade cases with China than with any other trading partner.

How did your experience at the HNC prepare you for this work?
My day-to-day work touches on policy, international trade law, economics, and accounting, among other disciplines, so I need to learn quickly and process and analyze a lot of information. As a Certificate student at HNC I had the flexibility to take classes in a range of subjects, from politics and history to economics and statistics. On top of the diverse coursework, most of my courses were taught in Chinese so I had to push myself to learn new vocabulary, write academic papers in Chinese, and debate substantive issues in class. Many of my courses at HNC were small, seminar-style classes where we discussed social and political issues that had no clear-cut answer. In my job as an analyst I have to review opposing arguments submitted by the various parties involved in a case, dig for the facts, and evaluate ambiguous and contradictory information. The answer is never given to me, instead I have to consider the facts, choose a side and defend it, much like the classroom discussions I took part in at HNC.

What was your most memorable moment when you were at the HNC?
My first semester at HNC coincided with the 2012 presidential election in the U.S., and several of my most memorable experiences revolved around the election. We spent a good part of the day after the U.S. election in the auditorium, where students, faculty and several guests from the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai watched the results come in on live TV. A few weeks before the election  I received my absentee ballot in the mail and that sparked a fascinating conversation with my Chinese roommate about the voting process, the electoral college, and the impact of election on U.S. foreign policy. I revisited many of those topics when I met up with my roommate in Pennsylvania a couple weeks ago, where he is in now in law school, and we got right back into discussing the current election campaigns.

Do you have any advice for current or future students at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
My advice is to enjoy your time as a student, but also spend some time and effort figuring out what you want to do for a career. I noticed that my classmates at HNC and SAIS who knew what field they wanted to get into tended to get a lot more out of their graduate studies than other students. If you feel you have too many different interests or you're not sure what you want to do, take advantage of the opportunities to do an internship, meet alumni, talk to professors and career counselors, and participate in career treks.