Southeast Partnership with University of Missouri School of Law Offers New Career Pathway for Students


Southeast Missouri State University is pleased to announce a new career pathway created in partnership with the University of Missouri (UM) School of Law that will save students one year of undergraduate tuition and give them a head start on achieving their career goals in the legal profession.

The Three-Three J.D. Program will be effective with the start of the fall 2021 semester and be open to Southeast students of all majors. Participating students will complete their major and general education requirements in three years and will then enter the University of Missouri School of Law during what would have been their senior year at Southeast. This program provides students the opportunity to complete their first year of law school while completing credit hours that will transfer back to Southeast to complete their upper division requirements for their undergraduate degree.

At the completion of their first year of law school, students will be awarded a bachelor’s degree from Southeast. Instead of taking seven years to complete both degrees, students should be able to complete both in six years.

“Our leadership team and faculty are always looking for ways to meet the needs of our students,” said Southeast President Dr. Carlos Vargas. “This partnership is another way our team is accelerating the career trajectory of our students, providing them with academic and financial benefits.”

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our students who are looking to pursue a law degree at a top school in the state of Missouri,” added Dr. Mike Godard, Southeast provost, whose team spearheaded this collaborative approach. “We are grateful for this partnership with the University of Missouri and the accelerated pathway that this will provide for some of our Southeast students.”

Undergraduates wishing to get a head start on their legal education through this program must have a 3.5 GPA and must earn satisfactory marks on the LSAT after the second year of their three-year undergraduate program.

“Many of our students hope to return to their communities to practice law once they complete their education,” said Dr. Laura Hatcher, associate professor of political science at Southeast. “Given that there is a dearth of lawyers in rural areas, and that there is always room for lawyers in fields of law that serve underrepresented groups, it’s especially important that students make their way through their education and into their careers as quickly as they can — and they need to do it on a budget.”

In addition to the new partnership, Hatcher said Southeast has also developed a strong relationship with the federal district court in Cape Girardeau.

“It’s an exciting time at Southeast for students who want to study law,” Hatcher said. “Four of Southeast’s students from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences were able to attend the Justice Fellowship Program that the federal judges organized last summer.”

Hatcher said the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals has held its Southern Division docket hearings at Southeast, and judges have been available to offer advice and guidance to students.

In addition, this fall the Dr. William F. Ansberry Pre-Law Scholarship was established through the Southeast Missouri University Foundation. The endowed scholarship will be awarded to students who are interested in pre-law and attain a B or higher in Southeast’s “Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties” course. The Department of Political Science, Philosophy and Religion Scholarship Committee will select the recipients.

Through its Law, Politics, and Society Club, Southeast also offers students opportunities to meet lawyers, judges and scholars who, this year, came to campus in person or via Zoom, to discuss voting rights, elections, careers in criminal defense and civil litigation and constitutional law issues.

“All of this builds on the already existing programs, minors and certificates the University offers that can help students prepare for law school,” Godard said.