Donna Carpenter of Advance, Mo., will finish the degree she started more than 25 years ago as one of the more than 1,000 Southeast students who will receive their degrees today at the Show Me Center.
"Years later, it takes a lot more out of you to finish," said Carpenter, who quit college in the 1980s after completing 88 credit hours.
Carpenter continued her education at Southeast Missouri State University in 2007 after she lost her job at Miracle Recreation Equipment, where she worked as a human resources and safety manager. Re-entering the work force after the facility closed was a challenge, she said.
"I got turned down by several really good companies," she said. "They didn't care what kind of degree; they just wanted a degree."
Carpenter, who studied business administration, said she took a full load of online classes while working full time and taking care of her three children.
"It allowed me to go back and get the degree that I wanted," she said.
Commencement, which begins at 2 p.m., will include 903 undergraduates and 129 graduate students.
David Steward, founder and chairman of World Wide Technology, will address the graduates. His company is based in St. Louis. Before starting the company in 1990, Steward held senior level positions with Wagner Electric, Missouri Pacific Railroad and Federal Express.
An honors convocation begins at 10:30 a.m. at the Show Me Center. The ceremony will honor 301 undergraduates, 75 graduate students and seven students receiving specialist degrees. Ed Buis, director of Kent Library, will address students during the ceremony.
Because parking is limited at the center, shuttles will run to the center from 1 to 5:15 p.m. Service is available from the Towers complex parking garage and parking lots, and from lots near Dempster Hall on North Henderson Avenue.
One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO