USM Names Henson as New Director of Lott Center

Published 3:57 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Brian Henson brings a wealth of experience and a vision for success to his new position as Director of the Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM).

A native of Quitman, Miss., Henson has spent the past three years as Chief of Staff for the Delta Regional Authority – a federal-state partnership created by the U.S. Congress to promote and encourage economic development throughout the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt regions. Prior to that appointment, he served as the agency’s Special Advisor for congressional and federal affairs.

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“I have been fortunate to work in economic development at the local, state, and now federal levels,” said Henson. “The opportunity to come home and bring my experiences to help further develop economic opportunities for Mississippi was always a desire. Being able to bring those experiences to the Trent Lott Center and work with the many talented people and assets of USM to help grow our future is an opportunity that I am humbled to have.”

Henson officially begins his new job on July 6. He replaces Dr. Shannon Campbell, who was named the University’s Senior Associate Vice President for Coastal Operations in March.

As the Center’s director, Henson will have overall administrative responsibility for the development and coordination of the University’s economic development initiatives. In this leadership role, he will spearhead and conduct economic development and business research.

“Since my arrival at USM, the Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship has been an important part of our institutional success,” said University President Rodney D. Bennett. “I am delighted to join in welcoming Brian Henson as its new director, and I am confident his leadership will continue to advance the Center’s rich tradition of excellence.”

Dr. Gordon Cannon, Vice President for Research, said Henson’s strong networking portfolio in the development community made him an outstanding choice from the national search.

“He knows what South Mississippi needs to retain and attract business and jobs. In addition, he uniquely understands economic development efforts due to his experience finding opportunities as the Special Advisor for the Delta Regional Authority,” said Cannon. “The Trent Lott Center has strong momentum right now and will continue to thrive with Brian leading our efforts. We are excited about Brian becoming a member of the Southern Miss family.”

Henson is a Mississippi State University graduate, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Business Administration. He is a former member of the Mississippi Economic Development Council and the Southern Economic Development Council.

In 2008, Henson completed the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute’s Certified Economic Developer coursework. For eight years, he served as the Executive Director of the Kemper County (MS) Economic Development Authority. While in that position, he played an instrumental role in the development and construction of the John C. Stennis Memorial Hospital.

He also managed the county’s business incubator facility and was responsible for numerous smaller business expansions and community development projects, including a senior citizens’ community center.

Henson views the Lott Center as a catalyst for economic growth – one that can bridge the many assets of USM to business and industry, while also helping them achieve optimum success.

“The Trent Lott Center has the responsibility of helping provide opportunities for the next wave of economic developers and leaders to learn the profession through hands-on experience,” said Henson. “These leaders will continue to help grow our region in the future for the next generation. The Trent Lott Center is strategically positioned to be the driver to make USM a leader in economic development, not just in South Mississippi, but across the country.”

About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is a comprehensive public research institution delivering transformative programs on campuses in Hattiesburg and Long Beach, at teaching and research sites across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, as well as online. Founded in 1910, USM is one of only 131 universities in the nation to earn the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education’s “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity” designation, and its robust research enterprise includes experts in ocean science and engineering, polymer science and engineering, and large event venue safety and security, among others. USM is also one of only 37 institutions in the nation accredited in theatre, art and design, dance and music. As an economic driver, USM generates an annual economic impact of more than $600 million across the state. USM welcomes a diverse student body of more than 14,000, representing 71 countries, all 50 states, and every county in Mississippi. USM students have collected four Truman Scholarships and 37 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, while also leading Mississippi with 27 Goldwater Scholarships, an honor that recognizes the next generation of great research scientists. Home to the Golden Eagles, USM competes in 17 Division I sports sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). For more information, visit