In 1878, students could choose from courses in six academic departments. Today, coursework has grown exponentially, and high-quality, innovative academic programs are nurturing scholars while cultivating fulfilled graduates finding success in life and in the workplace.

Exercising critical thinking skills, stimulating knowledge, tapping creativity, and drawing from the expertise of exceptional faculty has been the recipe for molding extraordinary scholars for 150 years. In addition to preparing future educators, the University today proudly trains professional pilots, cybersecurity experts, computer scientists, nurses, musicians, artists, actors, entrepreneurs, multimedia journalists, accountants, industrial and systems engineers, and more.

Southeast is making scholars who are not just making the grade; they are turning heads, making impressions, brainstorming solutions, surpassing their ambitions and creating waves across the globe.

Southeast graduates have a long tradition of scholarly pursuits:

  • Emma E. Cowden was the first to finish the school’s four-year program. Southeast Missouri Normal School’s first commencement for four-year study took place in 1877.
  • Rodney Jay O’Connor is the first student who was recorded to have graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA on May 16, 1955.
  • John Bierk of the Department of English made history in 1982 as the first recipient of the University’s annual Faculty Merit Award.
  • A Southeast Debate Team, with trailblazers Rush Limbaugh Sr. and Edward Roberts, first competed in an intercollegiate debate in 1911, facing teams from then Southwest Missouri State College and Marvin College. More than a century later, the Southeast Debate Team placed in the top five in the 2021 and 2022 Education Debate Association’s (NEDA) National Debate Tournament.
  • During the 1970s, Charles Taylor was the first African American graduate teaching assistant, with the Department of History, while Emanuel Balland was the first African American graduate assistant during the 1960s in the Department of Physical Education.
  • In the history of the institution, about 800 students have successfully completed their undergraduate studies with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

Southeast Alumni Scholars

2017 Southeast graduate Colten Peterson earned a double major in physics and engineering physics, mechanical applications option, and a minor in applied mathematics at Southeast. He is a doctoral student at the University of Michigan where he was awarded a NASA FINESST Research Grant to improve satellite-based estimates of arctic cloud properties.

Southeast alumna Dr. Linda Godwin is a veteran astronaut of four NASA space flights. She is now a retired NASA astronaut and an emeritus professor of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Missouri. She graduated from Southeast in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science in physics and mathematics.

Southeast alumna Samantha Hasler is a second year Planetary Science Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she is studying under a fully funded doctoral fellowship in the Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences department. She earned a Bachelor of Science in physics with a minor in mathematics in May 2019 at Southeast.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Michael Porter is chief systems engineer, overseeing a more than $4 billion intelligence satellite program at the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Virginia. He earned a Master of Natural Science in mathematics in 1992 and a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and Bachelor of Science in mathematics, both in 1990, all from Southeast.

Dr. Timothy Wencewicz, associate professor of chemistry and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, dedicates his research to antibiotic drug discovery, using chemistry to solve growing problems surrounding antibiotic resistance. He is a 2003 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and applied mathematics. “My time at Southeast ignited my scientific curiosity and provided the perfect venue for developing my own creativity through interactive classroom environments and research. The chemistry and mathematics departments provided me with a superb education, rigorous training and dedicated professors that sponsored and supported my pursuit of a doctoral degree in chemistry at the University of Notre Dame, postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School and my current position at Washington University.”

Donald Taylor, chief executive officer of Titan Mining Corporation, has spent more than 40 years in global mineral exploration and mining, and has successfully led exploration and mine development programs with several discoveries and deposit expansions to his credit. He focused on the discovery of the Hermosa Taylor Project in Arizona, one of the world’s largest undeveloped base metal deposits recently purchased by Australia’s South32.  He is a 1979 graduate of Southeast with a Bachelor of Science in geology.

Lt. Gen. James Conway graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. He served as a member of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant and Commanding General of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, heading the Force in the war with Iraq.

Dr. Mark Stacy is a well-respected national expert on Parkinson’s disease and has published scores of manuscripts on Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, tremor and other movement disorders. He has directed the Muhammed Ali Parkinson Research Center in Phoenix, Arizona. While there, Stacy made a major discovery -- impulse control issues associated with some Parkinson’s Disease medications. Stacy is currently an endowed professor of movement disorders at the Medical University of South Carolina. He is former dean of the Brody School of Medicine and former vice chancellor for the Division of Health Sciences at East Carolina University; and former vice dean for clinical research for the School of Medicine and professor of neurology at Duke University School of Medicine. He graduated from Southeast in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science in zoology and with a medical degree from the University of Missouri in 1986.

Col. Kimberlee (Joos) Shaneyfelt earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology and was commissioned an officer through the Reserve Officer Training Program (ROTC) in 1991 at Southeast. She entered active-duty service in 1992; completed advanced degrees from Georgetown University, Air Force University and National Defense University; and served as an intelligence officer from 1992 to 2015, retiring at the rank of colonel. During her 23 years of military service, she was selected to command on three separate occasions.

The Honorable Abbie Crites-Leoni is a 1993 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Spanish and theater, matriculating to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where she earned a law degree. She began her legal career as an assistant prosecutor in Cape Girardeau County and later was sworn in as a U.S. magistrate judge, becoming the first female federal judge appointed to work full-time in Cape Girardeau. In addition to her regular duties, she presides over the Supervision to Aid Reentry Court to assist individuals who have completed a federal prison term and are at high risk of reoffending to successfully reenter the community. Previously, Crites-Leoni was hired by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri where she specialized in prosecuting cases involving drug trafficking, child exploitation and government program fraud.

Pamela McClune, a 1972 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, is a retired attorney and U.S. Navy captain with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve. She also holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver and a diploma from the U.S. Naval War College. McClune served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, supporting the Office of the Judge Advocate General, Naval Surface Forces Pacific, Naval Forces Korea, U.S. Space Command, North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), and U.S. Northern Command. She served as director of the Naval Legal Service Office in San Diego, California, during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, and after the Sept. 11 attacks, served as the focal point for NORAD operational law issues, focusing on the rules of engagement for North American air defense and was legal advisor to the Canada-U.S. Bi-National Planning Group for enhanced military cooperation. She has earned the Defense Superior Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards.

Dr. Cynthia Fox, a 1992 Southeast graduate with Bachelor of Science with a major in speech pathology, is chief executive officer and co-founder of LSVT Global, Inc. Fox is a leading authority in speech treatment for people with Parkinson’s disease and has published and presented extensively in this area. The company has thousands of speech-language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists trained and certified in countries around the world, helping thousands of patients with Parkinson’s disease improve their communication, movement and quality of life. Fox formerly served as a research associate with the National Center for Voice and Speech in Denver, Colo., and co-founder of the LSVT Foundation. She also holds a Master of Arts in speech pathology from the University of Colorado-Boulder and a doctorate in speech and hearing sciences with a concentration in neuroscience and motor control from the University of Arizona-Tucson.

Dr. Julie Harper, a 1991 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies, is founding director and past president of the American Acne and Rosacea Society. After completing her studies at Southeast, Harper earned a medical degree from the University of Missouri School of Medicine. As a practicing dermatologist in Birmingham, she treats skin cancer, acne, eczema and other common and not-so-common dermatology maladies. She is widely published in medical literature and frequently quoted in the lay press. She lectures across the country, South America and Europe; has made red carpet appearances at the Grammy Awards, SAG Awards and the Oscars; and has been cast in a CeraVe skin care national television advertisement. She served as a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham through 2020.

Dr. Gina Bufe, who graduated from Southeast in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, is an advanced practice nurse (APRN) at St. Louis Mercy Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic in St. Louis, Missouri, a collaborative outpatient clinic practice with board certified child/adolescent psychiatrists providing therapy, psychopharmacology and family support to children and adolescents. Over her career, she has helped a multitude of individuals, particularly children and adolescents, who experience mental health challenges, to improve and restore their level of functioning. She is also involved in the development and retention of nurses to increase the mental health services workforce. She formerly was assistant director of the Nursing Program in the Catherine McAuley School of Nursing in the College of Health Professions and assistant professor at Maryville University in St. Louis; director of Nursing Education, Practice and Research with the UCLA Health System in Los Angeles, California; and director of Nursing Education, Quality and Research at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. After earning her degree at Southeast, she obtained a Master of Science in Nursing (Research) and doctoral degree from Saint Louis University. She holds American Nurses Credentialing Center certifications as an Adult Psychiatric Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist and as a Child/Adolescent Psychiatric Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist and received her APRN document of recognition in Missouri.