Piedmont Was a Lifesaver for UGA Administrator and ‘Pacesetter’ Winner Lawrence
Roswell Lawrence Jr. is a true believer in the transformative power of education. He gained insight into the need for diverse forms of higher education through experiences as a student and an administrator.
Lawrence graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in general business and accounting and went to work in Alpharetta. When his father took ill, he looked for a job closer to his parents’ Greene County home. He found an opening at UGA that appealed to him.
During the job interview, Lawrence shared his desire to work toward a Master of Business Administration (MBA) if hired. He did get the job and settled into the role. After just four months, he was named employee of the month. A couple of months later, it seemed the right time to start working on that MBA.
“My supervisor would not sign off. He wouldn’t let me work through lunch so I could get off at 4 p.m. and drive to Atlanta, where UGA’s MBA program was at the time,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence vented his frustration to his sister, who had achieved an Education Specialist degree at Piedmont. He began noticing Piedmont degrees on the office walls of some advisors he spoke with at UGA.
Piedmont, Lawrence said, became a “lifesaver.” He could work until 5:15 and make it to class on Piedmont’s Athens campus with time to spare. He completed the MBA requirements in 2009.
“It was a great experience. The professors were not just academics but had experience in the workforce, so that was tremendous,” Lawrence said. “I probably learned as much from the students as from the professors. We were able to be a cool, tight little group. Some of us still meet for food and drinks, even now.”
Lawrence earned a Master of Divinity from Luther Rice Seminary & University in 2013 and a Ph.D. in Education Administration and Policy from UGA in 2019. He still works for UGA and now is Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff for Finance and Administration.
Lawrence is completing an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellowship at Georgia State University this academic year. The ACE Fellows Program is designed for emerging leaders. They experience another institution’s culture, policies, and decision-making processes and bring those learnings back to their home campus. Most who complete the program go on to serve as presidents, CEOs, chief academic officers, other cabinet-level positions, and deans.
“Higher ed has so many possibilities, and I feel drawn to it. For me, there is a higher power telling me that this is the path, this is where we’re going, and I’ve seen doors open that I couldn’t open — and that keeps me here on the bad days,” Lawrence said. “No matter what you may be talking about, enhanced education informs you at a greater level no matter which side of the aisle or fence you may be.”
There is no question that education is the beginning of all good things in life, according to Lawrence, whether it is extra training on the job, attending a technical school, or pursuing a university degree. These avenues shape young minds, foster critical thinking, and unlock brighter futures.
Lawrence has seen firsthand the contrast between the liberal arts experience Piedmont offers and larger state schools.
“Most people with that same (UGA) degree I hold know about the same thing in the same kind of way. That experience didn’t necessarily tap into the sociology or religion sides of me. You had to choose. At a liberal arts school, and especially here at Piedmont, you craft your path. That makes for a more holistic person.”
Lawrence was back at Piedmont to receive the university’s Alumni Pacesetter Award. While on campus, he met with President Marshall Criser and spoke with Piedmont students about challenges and opportunities within the education system. Among the students he spoke with, one was disabled, and another was a child of immigrants. Both shared their unique paths to Piedmont and their aspirations.
Diverse types of institutions are needed “to support the complex people we are,” Lawrence said to the students. “When we can be authentically ourselves, that’s when we thrive. The sooner we start doing that, the better off our lives will be. We all need each other, and the country needs all of us.”
“Higher ed is still the answer. It has always been the answer,” Lawrence said. “We need to make sure that the system overall can offer high-quality educational experiences — and we can. We can’t do it thinking the same way we’ve always thought. We’re supposed to be the innovative units. We’re supposed to be those places where we’re pushing the limits and, therefore, coming up with new ideas and new things. That’s not just in the classroom. That’s in the administration building, too. I firmly believe that.”
For more information about Piedmont’s graduate programs, visit piedmont.edu/graduate-admissions/.