UGA is in Derek Hammock’s blood. It started when he was 3 as he watched the Bulldogs between the hedges and has continued through his master’s degree, with plenty of experiences, honors and awards in between.
Hometown: Vidalia, Ga.
High School: Vidalia Comprehensive High School
Degree objective: Master of Accountancy
Graduation: May 2016
University highlights, achievements and awards:
My 8 a.m. arrival at the University of Georgia on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, to move into Creswell Hall was far from my first time on campus. I had been coming to Athens on fall Saturdays since age 3 to watch the Dawgs play between the hedges—Section 126, Row 38, Seat 24. The University of Georgia was a part of me long before I became a part of it. Looking back on my five, quick years here, they have been more special than I had ever dreamed (literally) growing up.
Thanks to a special mentor, Barry Dotson (UGA Alumni Association board member), I knew before arriving on campus that I wanted to join the Student Alumni Council. The council’s mission to serve through student giving matched my love of UGA history and tradition. I found a home in SAC from 2012-2015 (sophomore to senior years), and served as its president and “G Book” coordinator during my junior year and vice president during my senior year. Prior to serving in a leadership role, in 2013 I was awarded the SAC Member of the Year Award. Following my service as president, the Alumni Association placed a Book of Honor in UGA Libraries for my “outstanding leadership and service as SAC President.” I am forever indebted to the 35 SACers who trusted and believed in me to lead them and our organization to new levels of service and giving to our university. I could not have done it without the leadership by example from so many, including Julie Cheney, Shari McIntosh, Kenny Lewis, Meredith Dean and Lyndsey Adams. SAC laid the foundation for every other door of opportunity at UGA. A few of these include:
The Leonard Leadership Scholars Program, in which I was a scholar, legacy intern and current graduate assistant. As a scholar I earned a Certificate in Personal and Organizational Leadership through the Institute for Leadership Advancement. I learned and grew more than I ever could have imagined under the leadership and guidance of Earl T. Leonard Jr. and Vikki Clawson. I was also awarded The Leonard Scholarship to apply to study abroad in Australia and New Zealand following my junior year. As the legacy Intern, I coordinated the Class of 2015 gift pledge of $25,000 and helped maintain alumni involvement with the institute. As the current graduate assistant, I work under the direction of Jodi Barnes in coordinating and facilitating 10 service-learning projects for 60 fellows and two capstone service-learning projects for 30 Leonard Leadership Scholars throughout the community.
In the spring of 2014 I was inducted into the Blue Key National Honor Society based on my commitment to leadership, scholarship and service. This organization introduced me to many of the university’s brightest minds and truly the future leaders of our nation and world. Being counted among them has been an honor.
In the spring of 2015 I was selected as one of eight Deer Run Fellows in the Terry College of Business. In this semester-long program, led by Ben Ayers, dean of Terry College, and Doug Ivester, former CEO of The Coca-Cola Co., I learned firsthand many lessons in leadership and life from very successful businessmen and businesswomen. I will always cherish the lessons learned and memories made with my peers, Dr. Ayers, Mr. Ivester, and his entire faculty and staff at Deer Run Plantation. Specifically, Mr. Ivester’s advice to “never let your memories be greater than your dreams” will never be forgotten.
In the spring of 2015, my final semester as an undergraduate, I was nominated and selected as a finalist for Terry Student of the Year. While never expected, this recognition served as the capstone to my UGA undergraduate experience.
Now in the Master of Accountancy program I am serving as one of several MAcc class gift coordinators. We are working with our fellow classmates to pledge a gift upward of $75,000 back to the J.M. Tull School of Accounting.
I never once during my collegiate experience expected to be recognized for anything. In fact, I never imagined reflecting on any highlights, achievements or awards during my time as a student. I wanted to learn as much as I could, establish meaningful relationships, make an impact and establish a solid foundation to begin a career. I focused on performing my very best in the classroom, building relationships with others, and contributing to UGA and my peers in everything I did. Somehow that led to earning one bachelor’s degree, one master’s degree, a few honors, countless invaluable friendships, a huge impact on me, and hopefully my impact on UGA. In the end, I credit every bit of my experience to those who believed in me, befriended me and provided me opportunities of a lifetime to serve, lead and grow. I look forward to serving the University of Georgia in any capacity I am able or granted for as long as I live.
Graduate assistant, Institute for Leadership Advancement, Terry College of Business
Family Ties to UGA:
My dad grew up going to UGA football games and graduated from UGA in 1985. I have never met anyone with a stronger passion for this university than him. That passion continued with me from a very young age. Our family ties to UGA began long before me and will continue long after me.
I chose to attend UGA because...
… it is in my blood, literally. Anyone who truly knows me knows that I would not be anywhere else. My love for UGA began through football (whose doesn’t?), but since becoming a student it has transcended many aspects of the university. Each day at UGA has affirmed my love for, and belief in, this special place and its people.
My favorite things to do on campus are...
… walk around North Campus, catch up with friends and colleagues, and stop by the Institute for Leadership Advancement office. These three things allow me to think, laugh, learn and contribute to a cause greater than myself.
When I have free time, I like...
Over the past several months “free time” has taken a different context and has been filled in a much less-interesting way: studying for the CPA exam. However, when I want to spice things up a bit, I enjoy day-hiking the many parks and trails of North Georgia, visiting Georgia’s many wineries, craft breweries and coffee shops, figuring out when and where to travel next, imagining the perfect football season capped off by a national championship, and attending whatever UGA sporting event is going on that day.
The craziest thing I've done is...
… scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef with (human-proclaimed harmless) sharks, coming within several feet of them. Using the first tank of air in just 35 minutes, I clearly did not believe that claim. It was an exhilarating experience. Words, pictures or videos cannot do it justice. The Great Barrier Reef is an amazing scene.
My favorite place to study is...
… Correll Hall, in either the Graduate Commons or a private study room. I also enjoy studying outside on North Campus when the weather is nice. When not studying on campus you will probably find me at Jittery Joe’s east side or Walker’s downtown.
My favorite professor is...
This one is tough. I believe I have learned much from, and developed much respect for, each professor I have taken. That said, I do not have one favorite, but rather a few:
Vikki Clawson — Personal and Organizational Leadership, Institute for Leadership Advancement: I cannot put into words the value and meaning Dr. Clawson (“Dr. C”) has added to my life and so many other scholars and fellows through ILA. Her wisdom, caring spirit and personality are second to none. I proudly call her my professor, mentor, life coach and dear friend. Now enjoying retirement, she was the best professor at UGA.
Steven Casadont — Accelerated and Intermediate Spanish: Señor Casadont, a native of Wisconsin, has spent seven years of his adult life in South America. He brings his life experiences and passion for the Spanish language to class each day. We learned the Spanish language using a textbook, but more importantly, we learned the Hispanic history, culture and traditions. He is an excellent teacher and gets to know his students on a personal level.
Tina Carpenter — Advanced Accounting: I met Dr. Carpenter my junior year on a forensic accounting “field trip” to the FBI in Atlanta. Prior to then I had heard great things of her both personally and professionally and knew she had earned multiple BAP Teacher of the Year awards. Now in her class, I understand why. She is an excellent teacher who genuinely cares about her students and wants them to be successful. She goes above and beyond to ensure we understand not only what we are learning but also why it is important.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...
… my grandfather, Billy Hammock, my dad’s dad, who I never had the opportunity to spend time with. He passed away before I was born. My dad, aunt, uncle and grandma often remind me how great of a person he was and share the many memories they have of him. He established the family love for and connection to UGA. He was an extremely hard worker, a loving father of three and husband to my wonderful Grandma Kay. If we had an afternoon together I imagine we would go fishing, take a trip to Athens to see the Dawgs play, and talk through life’s many lessons. To learn from him and laugh with him would be an honor.
From a professional/career perspective, I would love to share an afternoon with S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A. He led through his faith and values to create the premier quick-service restaurant in America. I strive to live a life of integrity in which I never have to compromise my faith or values; in which I choose to live and lead through them each day. Mr. Cathy did exactly that and built a thriving company that continues to embody his vision and values.
If I knew I could not fail, I would...
I do not factor in failure when making decisions or accepting opportunities. I believe that doing so would put a ceiling on my future. Unless failure involves death, it is an opportunity to learn and grow into a better and stronger version of myself.
However, playing in The Masters would be pretty sweet … I am not counting out a chance to play Augusta National one day… one can dream, right?
Realistically, I would lead a successful career, make a positive impact on the lives of others and one day raise a happy and healthy family.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to...
… travel with no limit. I would also love to give back to all the people and institutions who have made me who I am today: my parents, family, church, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors, professors, alma mater, state and others. Earl T. Leonard Jr. has taught me many valuable lessons, one of which is that “there is no such thing as a self-made person. We are all products of others’ influence.” These people in our lives deserve every bit of our appreciation and recognition.
After graduation, I plan to...
… complete my final CPA exam, road-trip through 23 states in 30 days, move to Atlanta and begin my career in public accounting with EY.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...
There are many. When I look back on my five years at UGA, both undergraduate and graduate school, I think I will say to myself, “Wow. How did I pull that off?” I feel like the luckiest guy for the opportunities I have been afforded and relationships I have established with many of the highest-quality people I have ever met. This university and Athens community is a special place because of the people in it. I feel that I have learned from each person that I have met here, and I owe a large piece of my experiences to the students, faculty, staff and Athenians who have made these five years the best of my life.
I will always remember the opportunity I had while serving as president of the Student Alumni Council to speak to nearly 4,000 UGA incoming freshmen at the Class of 2017 Freshman Welcome event in Sanford Stadium. Addressing the students between the hedges, I spoke on the importance of getting involved, living out UGA’s many traditions, and giving back to the university. Following the speech, I introduced someone much more comfortable between the hedges: Coach Mark Richt.
Much greater an experience than this one event was the opportunity to serve the Student Alumni Council as its president. I am forever grateful to my fellow SACers who believed in and trusted me to carry the Goodno Gavel. I will forever appreciate this yearlong experience leading by serving alongside some of the most driven and passionate students on campus.