Hard work and discipline have always been part of Lawrence Watkins’ DNA.

So when he arrived at UNCG as a freshman and learned about the nationally-renowned Bryan School of Business and Economics and its demanding degree program in accounting, there was no doubt he was up for the challenge.

Having come from a low-income background, Watkins knew he needed to understand accounting – “the language of business” – to be successful. He also knew that in an increasingly interconnected world, it was important to attend a university that emphasized diversity.

“As a high school student, I did some research and learned that UNCG was the most diverse school in the UNC system. I thought it would be a great place to go,” said Watkins, who graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in accounting on May 6. “Technology is making the world smaller each day, so it’s important to have an understanding of different cultures and races.”

Watkins’ success at UNCG can be credited to his discipline. While his social life was an important part of his UNCG experience, he knew he needed to take advantage of every opportunity in order to build a solid foundation for his future.

“I think college students need to have a long-term perspective,” he said. “How can you maximize this time? How can you become better every day?”

Outside of the classroom, Watkins volunteered with Growing Young Men’s (GYM) mentorship program. GYM, a student organization on UNCG’s campus, is an entity of the Neo-Black Society. Every week for nearly two years, Watkins mentored two students at Pearce Elementary School in Greensboro.

In January, Watkins and three other classmates founded DRAFT, or Distinguished Recognized Accounting Finance (Leaders) of Tomorrow, with the goal of attracting more global companies to recruit UNCG accounting students. The new student organization meets once a month, hosts socials and attends industry conferences.

This fall, Watkins will begin working toward a Master of Science in accountancy at Wake Forest University. After completing the program, he hopes to start a career in public accounting, focusing specifically on taxation.

“Every transaction that a business makes has a tax implication,” Watkins said. “I’m interested in a career where I can help companies and individuals maximize their after-tax cash flow.”

Looking back, Watkins is thankful for the strong support of his family – specifically his mother Georgia Watkins, sister Sophia Griffith, brother Charles Watkins and girlfriend Malia Brown – and the values that were instilled in him as a young boy.

“When I graduated, it wasn’t just me on that stage,” he said. “It was all of us. It was a collective effort.”

His advice for younger students trying to balance it all? Take it one day at a time.

“It’s not about having a 4.0 year. It’s about having a 4.0 day.”


Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Relations
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Relations