The beginning of Riley Hamilton’s college experience was anything but normal. Not only did she kick off her freshman year at UTSA during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she did so at the age of 17. Next week, Hamilton will earn her B.B.A. in Management, with a concentration in Human Resources Management, at just 19 years old.
It was not in Hamilton’s initial plans to graduate at such a young age. As a student at Lampasas High School, she began taking a few summer dual-credit courses at Central Texas College with her sister. This jumpstarted her desire to continue taking college coursework.
“It pushed me ahead of my high school classes, and I thought why not? I might as well,” Hamilton recalled. “I come from a small town, and I wanted to leave, so this was a good opportunity.”
By the time she graduated from high school in 2020 at 16 years old, she had earned 24 hours of dual credit. In fact, she needed to take only two elective classes, in addition to her B.B.A. courses, to earn a bachelor’s degree upon her arrival in San Antonio.
UTSA was the only university where Hamilton applied. She liked that UTSA offered the elite resources of a public university with a large enrollment, but still had a campus that felt intimate.
“I just loved the community that UTSA fosters,” Hamilton said. “It’s not a big campus, which is nice, but there’s a huge community within the university and within the College of Business.”
Although she was certain in her decision to attend UTSA, that certainty wavered a bit when she came to campus at the height of the coronavirus in fall 2020. Hamilton was afraid she would lose the sense of community she values as many students opted for more virtual learning from home. Thankfully, she found a great group of friends to lean on. They did schoolwork with her and provided a solid support system.
Hamilton’s aunt, Jo Ann San Miguel, also talked with her regularly and helped foster her passion for human resources (HR). San Miguel is an attorney in Lampasas, and Hamilton would help her out around the law office. Hamilton started assisting her with personal injury cases during her senior year of high school, and even though she wasn’t interested in being an attorney, she was still fascinated with the procedures and laws that were foundational to these injury cases.
“I liked business law, and that it’s not just law. It’s also about helping employees,” Hamilton explained. “Human resources is very for people.”
Hamilton also credits her professors in the Alvarez College of Business for going above and beyond to help her greatly expand her passion — and knowledge — for HR. She found two classes particularly impactful: Performance Management with Catalina Zarate, associate professor of practice in management; and Managing HR with Competitive Advantage with Heather Staples, assistant professor of practice. The former gave her in-depth insight about performance management systems and the latter provided her real-world HR expertise through a series of guest speakers.
Hamilton did all she could to be involved in the Alvarez College of Business. Under the direction of Melissa Lackey, director of marketing, and Wendy Frost, director of communications, she learned the ropes of UTSA branding and contributed to the college’s social media channels, weekly newsletters and advertisements. She would then study the analytics to see what was successful and what wasn’t.
“It was cool to see everyone getting something I wrote,” Hamilton said. “Also, learning what grabs people’s attention and what doesn’t, what is interactive and what isn’t, helped my HR career.”
Through her marketing and communications work for the Alvarez College of Business, Hamilton discovered the UTSA student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). She joined in 2021 as the secretary and worked her way up to president in May 2022. As the council’s leader, Hamilton made it a goal to see the SHRM membership grow and become more involved on campus.
“COVID hit our chapter when I came in, so there wasn’t much membership or involvement,” she said. “But we’ve gained 15 members this semester (and) we went from three executive positions to six. Helping the chapter rebuild has been super rewarding.”
Hamilton also served in leadership roles for the Phi Mu Sorority and the Panhellenic Council. Through both positions, she learned the value of being resource-driven to bolster the wellbeing of her peers. This will serve her well as she pursues an HR position in San Antonio after graduation.
“I would say everything I’ve joined furthered me as a person,” Hamilton said. “I’ve grown a lot as a person and being in these organizations has taught me a lot about the versatility of HR roles.”