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Find your personal purpose

Derek Hammock is a 5th year Master of Accountancy student at the University of Georgia who is set to begin a career in public accounting with EY in Atlanta upon completing the CPA exam this year. Our #MCM says ESPN keeps him up at night and his passion for serving others & making an impact wakes him up each morning.

1. What's your story? What makes you unique?

I attend the University of Georgia, yet I’m not from Metro Atlanta. Pretty unique, right? I am from Vidalia, GA, a small town in South Georgia, home of the sweet onion, but I don’t like onions..ironic, I know.

Since I first stepped foot on UGA’s campus at age 3, I dreamed (literally) of attending UGA, but it didn't occur to me that I would be able to until 8th grade. That was the year I first thought about the steps I needed to take to get into UGA. I worked hard and sacrificed to be admitted. It didn’t come easy for me. The day I was accepted was the best day of my life. Understanding how special of an opportunity it was to attend UGA, I knew I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity the University offered. Looking back now over the past 5 years in Athens, I am mind-blown— by the incredible students, faculty, staff, and Athenians I’ve formed genuine relationships with; by the organizations I’ve been able to contribute through, learn from, and lead; by the mentorships and programs that have helped me serve, lead, and grow into who I am today and will become tomorrow; by the unforgettable football games in Sanford Stadium that we won and should have won; by the

incredible restaurants (shout to to LRG white chocolate cheesecake) that have granted me a few extra pounds; and by the people who took a chance on me, believed in me, and supported me. I never knew any of these opportunities or experiences existed until I just did it—I raised my hand, participated, volunteered, committed, served, and led. As the sun sets on my final days in Athens before moving to Atlanta, the past 5 years inspire me for the next five. I look forward to beginning anew in Atlanta, and, not knowing what lies ahead, taking the same strategy: raising my hand, participating, volunteering, committing, serving, and leading. I trust the rest will take care of itself.

2. What motivates you?

I am motivated by the belief that I can do anything in life by working hard and surrounding myself with people I believe in and who believe in me. I am motivated by the belief that I can make a difference. I am motivated by the responsibility to be an example to others. I am also motivated by one day being able to support myself, those I love, and my community, and to give back to the people and institutions who have shaped who I am today.

3. Who is a hero of yours?

I have to mention two. First: my mom, Lisa Hammock. She is the most caring, compassionate, God-fearing woman I know. She is also the hardest worker I’ve ever known. She grew up in a small town 100 miles from Savannah, GA yet drove 100 miles one-way each day to attend college while working to pay for it. She never missed a class and was never late to the dreaded 8:00am class. She inspires me to work hard, believe in myself, show up, never make excuses, and literally, just do it. She has made sacrifices for me I may never comprehend. My mom is my hero and I love her more than anything. I repeat what was once told to me: “No one loves you like your mama loves you. Call her and tell her how much you love her."

Second: Mr. Earl T. Leonard, Jr., founder of the Leonard Leadership Scholars Program in the Terry College. He is my mentor, advisor, teacher, life and leadership coach, and dear friend. He devoted his life many years ago to developing young people, and I am eternally grateful for having fallen along his path. I would not be who I am without his influence. He has inspired me to go further, encouraged me to give my very best so that no one can ever ask more of me, taught me to expect failures in life and learn from them, shown me what a life of integrity looks like, supported me in exploring and studying in Australia and New Zealand, and proven to me that life isn’t about what you take from it but rather what you leave behind. Each time we meet I know that I will laugh until I cry, share whatever’s on my mind, learn more valuable lessons than I could in a classroom, enjoy a Coca-Cola with lime, and walk away a better person. I hope each person has a “Mr. Leonard” in their life.

4. What's your future plan? Your goals?

Upon graduating with my Master of Accountancy (officially becoming a Double Dawg) and completing the CPA exam I will begin my career in EY’s audit practice in Atlanta. My “five year plan” is to emerge myself into the business world and learn all that I can. I believe doing so has the potential to set up opportunities to serve, lead, and grow throughout my career.

5. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?​

First, give thanks. As one of Earl’s Pearls, “There is no such thing as a self-made person.” We are the product of other people who mold, develop, and challenge us to be the best version of ourselves each day. Second, do the right thing. As Mr. Leonard also says, “Integrity is the one thing that, if lost, you can never get back.” Live a life of absolute integrity. Do the right thing and never compromise your integrity.

6. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?

Giving back to your university. “I’m not donating to UGA; I already pay/paid too much in tuition.” This was a common theme we in the Student Alumni Council faced when striving to increase support for the University. While the cost of operating a university has greatly increased, state support for higher education has been dwindling for many years. Giving back to “the rising hope of our land” is one of the best and most worthy investments we can make. If you are a student or alumni, your university needs your time, talent, and treasure. If you cannot give all, try to give one. Volunteer, participate, give back. I encourage you to support the institution that has greatly enhanced your personal and professional quality of life.

7. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?

As President of the Student Alumni Council I had the opportunity to speak to approximately 3,000 incoming freshmen (and introduce Coach Mark Richt) at Freshman Welcome on the field in Sanford Stadium. It was truly the opportunity of a lifetime for me—to stand on the field where I’ve watched the Dawgs play almost every snap since I was 3 years old. I challenged them to get involved, make an impact, and give back to the university who provides endless opportunities for us to grow and succeed.

Another cool experience was scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef off the coast Australia while studying abroad. Swimming with sea turtles, manta rays, and reef sharks all larger than me was an unforgettable, and literally breath-taking, experience.

8. Anything we haven't asked that you'd like to talk about.

I’ll leave you with this: find your personal purpose. Thinking is hard, but thinking about yourself is the hardest of all. We often live our lives outwardly—imitating what others are doing, following fruitless paths, living aimlessly in the moment. I encourage you to think about yourself, find out who you really are, and discover the “Why” to your being. Finding your purpose will enable you to live a life of meaning and feel fulfilled even in the darkest hours.

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