UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO / Fall 2009
mission
incredible
power to
the people
moving at
warp speed
wide world
of deportes
under
pressure
a passion
for justice
mission incredible
Learning how to hold your own with the big boys
by Barbara Davenport

PHOTO BY TIM MANTOANI

[self-possession] Cmdr. Terrance Hammond, USN, was confident that he could power through a doctorate in two years. It took him seven.

Of course, being deployed to Kuwait two years into the program put a bit of a crimp into things. In the end, the journey that led to earning his doctorate in education in 2006 was not only worthwhile, but full of surprises: “Terry Monroe taught a course in leadership and authority.” He laughs. “Somehow, I didn’t expect to learn leadership from a nun.”

Hammond is a genial man in immaculate khaki, simultaneously relaxed and military-crisp. He wears his education gracefully, relying on an informal style and a supportive manner to make his points. “SOLES was a great investment,” he says, hands underscoring each word as he talks. “The admissions people told me, ‘The doctorate won’t make you any smarter, but it will expose you to much more.’” A hand comes down on the tabletop. “They were right.”

This particular journey started in 1999 when he picked up a newspaper on the Coronado ferry. A graduate of Annapolis and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Hammond had been thinking about retirement. The country was at peace, the Navy was downsizing and Hammond saw his career options narrowing. But that day, an ad caught his eye. “Get your doctorate in leadership studies,” it said. Hammond was immediately interested.

USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences admissions office referred him to several other Naval officers at San Diego’s North Island Naval Air Station (where Hammond was working) who were well into the program. They praised the high quality of the instruction and talked about how applicable their classroom work was to the challenges they faced in their jobs.

Hammond liked what he heard. This was graduate education designed for working professionals, a chance for real-world learning that he could put to work right away. “The Navy really values leadership skills. I was on board.”

Hammond got started the next semester. As he got to know his cohort — the group of 10 school administrators and 10 military officers with whom he started the program — it became clear that they shared the same concerns, even though they came from two profoundly different cultures. “The school people worked on the same kinds of problems that I did, and they’d come up with some solutions that worked. That helped me see that good ideas and good practices can come from places I hadn’t expected,” he says.

As executive officer of the Navy’s aircraft maintenance command, Hammond supervises a work force on both coasts, as well as in Hawaii, Okinawa and Japan. A large part of his job is human resources: performance and discipline issues, hiring, promotion and equal opportunity. He credits his coursework for providing him with a solid grounding in HR skills.

Working with people from differing professional cultures has become an essential skill over the course of Hammond’s career, as the armed services increasingly share assignments. He walks a visitor around a hangar-size building, one of several where his technical staff works. Civil service employees and civilian contractors join forces with officers and enlisted personnel from both the Marines and the Navy. “Each one of those groups looks at things a little differently. At SOLES, I learned that a good leader needs to promote good ideas, no matter who’s bringing them.”

The doctoral program provided access to state-of-the-art research and analytic tools, powerful software for statistical analysis and cutting-edge computer labs, in addition to knowledgeable staff support. He especially remembers the help he got from research librarian Karen Sharp. “We had some pretty strange requests — articles from journals I’d never heard of, data we weren’t even sure existed. No matter what I needed to know, she’d know where I should look.”

Hammond ranks those experiences he hadn’t expected as some of the most valuable parts of his education, such as realizing that nuns could actually be empowered leaders with valuable knowledge to impart. He vividly recalls Monroe’s experiential workshops that placed students in ambiguous situations: “We came into the room, and the chairs were arranged in a spiral. Everyone had to figure out where they should sit.” He grins, caricaturing his thought process: “Let’s see. Where do I think I fit? Where do other people think I should sit?”

In Monroe’s workshops, students got to hear from others exactly how they came across. That feedback wasn’t always comfortable, like the day a woman in his class told him that because he was a black man, she felt threatened. “If that’s how I seemed to her, I’d better know it, because it affects how she and I will get along.” The discipline to hear that kind of reaction helped him come to a better understanding of himself. “Paying attention makes me a more effective leader. I still remember those workshops; I draw on what I learned there every day.”

When he was unexpectedly deployed to Kuwait, Hammond didn’t want to lose his momentum, so he continued his studies, taking two courses online. Distance learning was still a relatively new concept, the software for online coursework not yet developed, but the SOLES faculty welcomed the challenge. When he finished his doctorate, Hammond was assigned to the Pentagon’s Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Expeditionary Warfare. “The doctorate opened a huge door,” Hammond says. “I know I wouldn’t have gone there without it.” He credits his studies with helping him understand what he saw at the Pentagon, the processes and practices by which the military works. “I’d learned critical thinking skills,” Hammond says. “Even more, I’d learned that I knew a lot. I could sit at the table with the big boys and hold my own.”

The Navy transfers its people frequently, and after his two-year tour at the Pentagon, Hammond was assigned to the Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering Service Command at North Island as executive officer. Next year he’ll become commanding officer. After that, he’ll be up for another posting. He’s already pondering the possibilities.

“That’s something else that SOLES taught me. I think a lot more widely, and I’m more likely to look at all kinds of options, like an embassy posting; I speak Portuguese. It’s made me think more about what I’ll do after I retire, like going into the Senior Executive Service (the highest echelon of government jobs), or maybe university administration. SOLES also got me in the habit of learning. I’m working on a master’s degree now in foreign relations from the Naval War College.”

Now that he’s back in San Diego, Hammond has reconnected with USD. “I’m working with the Naval ROTC program on campus. I also want to connect with the civilian community, and the university’s a great way to do that.” When he looks back, that trip on the ferry was the kickoff for a whole new way of life.

“It turned out to be a great investment and a great ride. I’m still earning dividends.”

mission
incredible
power to
the people
moving at
warp speed
wide world
of deportes
under
pressure
a passion
for justice