Southeast Missouri State University

Southeast Missouri State University is a public, accredited university located in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, United States, near the banks of the Mississippi River.  The addition of the River Campus, which includes the Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts, has increased the university’s focus on education in the arts.  As a comprehensive institution, the institution offers over 200 areas of study, including undergraduate degrees and master’s degrees and a cooperative Ed.D. program with the University of Missouri.

History of Southeast Missouri State University

Founded in 1873, Southeast Missouri State University was formed when a group of prominent businessmen and politicians successfully lobbied the State of Missouri to designate Cape Girardeau as the home of the Third District Normal School.  Originally known as Southeast Missouri State Normal School, the first classes were originally taught at the nearby Lorimier School until April 1875, when the first normal school building was completed.

The Original Normal School Building burned down on April 8, 1902, and was replaced in 1906 by Academic Hall, the school’s domed landmark building.  It was designed by Jerome Bibb Legg, who also designed the St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall.

In the 1950s, Southeast Missouri State College had an enrollment of approximately 1,600 students. It steadily increased to more than 7,000 students in the 1970s due to low tuition costs, aggressive recruiting, and Interstate 55 between St. Louis and Cape Girardeau.  The College also moved away from its previous focus on teacher training to offer courses in business, nursing, and the liberal arts.  Due to this expansion of curriculum and student body population, the college officially became Southeast Missouri State University in 1972.  The physical size of the campus also grew in this same period. In 1956, the institution had ten buildings on campus.  By 1975, the number had increased to twenty-two buildings.


With nearly 12,000 students, Southeast has grown into a large school with many opportunities for critical learning and extracurricular activities.  Internships and experiential learning are available in 100 percent of majors.  Study-abroad opportunities range from two-week study to an entire academic year program in a variety of countries.

Overlooking the Mississippi River, this beautiful campus is an eclectic mix of old and new.  Classic limestone buildings blend harmoniously with contemporary structures. Located in Cape Girardeau, the largest city between St. Louis and Memphis, Southeast is a great place to live and learn in a college-friendly community.  Students come from all over the United States and from more than 40 countries around the world.

The school features twenty-one residence halls, considered by many to be the best in Missouri, and ten dining facilities give students many choices. In addition, students with similar interests or majors may be grouped in themed learning communities.

A modern recreation center and a one-of-a-kind aquatic center are available to all students, along with more than 180 social, recreational, and special interest student organizations that provide many diverse opportunities to be involved on campus.

Southeast competes in NCAA Division I, Ohio Valley Conference athletics.  Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, and track (indoor/outdoor).  Women’s sports include basketball, cross country, gymnastics, soccer, softball, tennis, track (indoor/outdoor), and volleyball.

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  1. May 29, 2021 – revised grammatical errors, increased internal links, etc. – MWS