Campus Traditions

Man Walking Up Cardiac Hill

Cardiac Hill

This steep hill above the Towers Complex is, figuratively, a killer. It leads from the Towers Complex up to the back of Crisp Hall. Members of the football team used to sprint up it during training, and often complained that they felt like they were going to have a heart attack after the strenuous trek. Legend says it also gave birth to our most famous tradition, the gum tree.

Gum Tree

Gum Tree

This tradition dates back to the 1960s when chewing gum was actually prohibited in some classes at Southeast. Students living in the Towers Complex would climb Cardiac Hill on their way to class and place their chewing gum on the tree trunk. The tradition reportedly continued even after gum was allowed in class because students out of breath after traversing Cardiac, stuck their gum on the tree at the top of the hill. As of 2019, there have been three gum trees: the original tree died in the late 1980s and was replaced by a red bud tree that snapped during a storm in May 2018. A new black gum tree was planted atop the hill in August 2018.

The Engagement Tree

The Engagement Tree, also known as the Marriage Tree and the Love Tree, is a large sugar maple along the walkway on the west side of Academic Hall. There have been many stories passed down from alumni and faculty about students returning to the tree because it’s where they received their first kiss, fell in love, or got engaged. At the base of the larger branches, you’ll see an eastern red cedar growing “in” the tree. It is said to be a demonstration of the tree’s history of nurturing relationships.

Student looking at signed dome walls

Signing the Dome

The dome sits atop the iconic Academic Hall in the middle of campus. Students and alumni are invited to leave their mark inside the University’s landmark building and sign their name alongside those of hundreds of other Redhawks.

Image of two students in Redhawk Clothing


Students, faculty, staff, and the community dress in Redhawk gear on Fridays to show their Southeast pride!

Football players walking down the street in parade fashion

Redhawk Walk

Established in 2014, the Redhawk Walk takes place two hours before kickoff of home football games. The Southeast Missouri State University Marching Band, Redhawk Cheerleaders, and Southeast Sundancers lead the football team up Bellevue Street and onto Houck Field. It’s a way for students and the community to connect to the team and show their support.

Marching Band Alma Mater before Football games

The Marching Band assembles on the steps of the Wehking Alumni Center on Broadway to sing the Alma Mater before every home football game.

Students running across a football field

Redhawk Run

This tradition began in 2019. First-year students gather in the endzone of Houck Field and run through the tunnel formed by the band.

Football players with their coach rocking back and forth on the field

Lock 'n Rock

Head Football Coach Tom Matukewicz (Tuke) started this tradition in 2014. Before kickoff, the football team assembles in the endzone with Coach Tuke in the center. All the coaches and players lock arms and rock back and forth before running through the tunnel formed by the Marching Band. The players lock arms again along the sideline before the coin toss to show team unity.

Football players with their helmets in the air, the marching band plays in the background

Alma Mater after the game

After every home game, win or lose, the football team gathers in front of the student section and listen as the band plays the Alma Mater.

Two People Sledding

Sledding on Campus

Southeast students know how to make the most of a snow day! You’ll find students sledding on the terraces, down Cardiac Hill, and Brandt field, also known as the old band practice field.
Photo Credit: Sagamore Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Southeast Missouri State University

Students at a softball game hold up signs

S-E at Softball

Longtime faculty member Jerry Westbrook is credited with starting a very special cheer at SEMO softball games. The cheer goes: “S-E-M-O, S-E-M-O, S-E-M-O, Rowdy, Rowdy, Redhawks!” Westbrook actually has signs with the cheer on them and directs the crowd through the chant.

Far away image of students arrange in the letters S and E

First-Year Photo

Each year, all new students gather at Houck Field to take their first Southeast family portrait.

Southeast President Carlos Vargas serving ice cream to student

Ice Cream Pig Out

Held the Friday evening of Opening Week, faculty and staff dish out all-you-can-eat ice cream to welcome students to campus. It’s also a great chance to meet new friends and have fun!

Show Me Center filled with booths and students

Welcome Back Picnic

The Show Me Center is turned into a Cape Expo as on-campus departments and community businesses and organizations set up booths to welcome back all students. There’s always lots of food and entertainment, and it serves as a wonderful kickoff to the fall semester.

Two students hug

Family Weekend

This tradition started as Parents’ Weekend back in 1977. It was specifically for the families of SEMO football players, but quickly grew and eventually became known as Family Weekend. It’s a time when relatives from around the country come to Cape Girardeau to visit campus, spend time with their student, meet friends, tour facilities, attend a variety of events throughout the weekend, and cheer on Redhawk Football.

A parade goes down the street


Students began celebrating Homecoming in the 1920s. It’s a week full of events celebrating Southeast and culminates with the annual Homecoming Parade and football game.

Students at a booth

Carpe Diem

This is Southeast’s annual celebration of cultural diversity that is held each fall. Participants and attendees get to interact with one another as they explore different languages, food, dance, and fashion from over 65 countries and many diverse cultures.

Students line up to be served food

Late Night Breakfast

This is the Southeast way of celebrating finals week. On the Monday of finals week each semester, Southeast’s Administrative Council serves breakfast at Towers Café and the University Center at 10 p.m. to give students a study break.

Students laugh at a table

MLK Celebration

Every January, Southeast hosts a dinner with a featured speaker to honor and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sorority Students hold up signs

Greek Week

Held each April, Greek Week focuses on competitions, fun, philanthropy, and other events like a blood-drive, chariot races, hot dog eating contests, and more. It aims to unite Greek organizations while also making a difference on campus and in the community.

Students sit in cap and gown


Graduation ceremonies are held at the end of the fall and spring semesters. Students are invited to don their cap and gown and receive their diploma in a formal ceremony. In recent years, students have begun decorating their caps to highlight their personalities.