Skip to content
Founded with Donor Funding, Institute Celebrates Successes
Former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (center) celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Trent Lott Leadership Institute with (from left) James Hirsch, the institute's program manager; William Gottshall, executive director; Melissa Jones, associate director; and Katelin Hayward, program manager. The gathering was part of a celebration at the offices of Altria in Washington, D.C.

As the Trent Lott Leadership Institute at the University of Mississippi celebrates its 25th anniversary, it continues to break new ground in developing future leaders through its unique programs.

Former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (right) greets Noel Wilkin (left), UM provost, and Lee Cohen, dean of the university’s College of Liberal Arts, at a celebration of the Trent Lott Leadership Institute’s 25th anniversary in Washington, D.C.

“The Lott Leadership Institute has profoundly impacted many lives and embodies our university’s strengths by enhancing leadership skills in bright, energetic students,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “It’s one of the key reasons why the University of Mississippi is known for cultivating leaders.

“We’re grateful to Sen. Lott and all who make the institute the success it is today. We can’t wait to see what the next 25 years will bring.”

Earlier this month, institute leaders held an anniversary celebration at the offices of Altria in Washington, D.C. Among the guests were Lott and his family, Boyce, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Sen. Roger Wicker and dozens of other guests, including alumni.

“I think the institute has been a big success,” Lott said. “We have students in our programs now from all over the country.

“It’s become a feeder program to Washington. We’ve got graduates of that program working for Sen. Wicker, Sen. Hyde-Smith, Sen. Hagerty of Tennessee and (as) the chief of staff to Congressman Kustoff in Tennessee. It really has become a great recruiting tool and it’s producing tremendous future leaders.”

Melissa Jones, the institute’s associate director, highlighted several milestones since its inception:

  • New Leadership Endorsement: Available for all majors
  • Alumni Advisory Board: Powerful network engaging graduates, students
  • Record Admissions: 72 students enrolled in the public policy leadership degree program in fall 2023
  • High School Programs Expansion: New communities reached along the state’s Gulf Coast, record applications submitted for programs.

Lott Leadership alumni, also known as “Lotties,” are excelling in various careers, including lawyers, lobbyists, presidential campaign coordinators, pharmaceutical executives and heads of marketing for large manufacturing and tech firms, Jones said.

“When you start thinking about public policy, it touches everything,” she said. “The health care you receive, the education you receive, the foods you eat. It’s not just government. It’s everything.”

Caleb Herod, program manager at The Chicago Community Trust, graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in public policy leadership and a minor in mathematics in 2012. Learning new ways to be a transformative leader was the best thing the institute taught him, he said.

“You didn’t always have to be the person out in front or getting the most publicity, but you could lead with your ideas, your work ethic, the way you manage relationships and the focus you have on your long-term goals,” Herod said.

Seth Dickinson, special assistant attorney general in the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, enrolled in a Lott Leadership high school program in the summer of 2013. Since earning his bachelor’s in public policy leadership, he’s tapped into the skills the institute teaches: preparedness, engagement and intellectual curiosity.

“We were trained to question and collaborate, not follow and formulate, no matter how hard it was or how long it took,” Dickinson said.

Founded with donor funding in 1999, the institute began with high school outreach programs that identified students and offered comprehensive training to mold them into state and national leaders.

Its expansion has included partnering with the Department of Public Policy Leadership, housed in the university’s College of Liberal Arts, to offer an interdisciplinary program that trains students to enter careers in public service.

“There’s not another public policy leadership major at the undergraduate level in the SEC,” said William Gottshall, the institute’s executive director.

“What we’ve done is build our reputation for quality service and quality students. Day in and day out, that makes me the proudest, as well as the successes of all these students.”

For more information about the Trent Lott Leadership Institute and its programs, click here.


Online gifts for the 2024 calendar year should be made no later than noon on December 31, 2024.  Checks by mail will need to be postmarked by December 31 to be counted in the 2024 calendar year.