Southeast Missouri State University

Hilary Peterson

Department of Theatre and Dance

Professor Hilary Peterson fell in love with everything dance and music at the young age of 8 years old.

Hilary is a native of Jacksonville, Ill., and currently resides in Cape Girardeau, Mo. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in dance with a minor in violin from Hope College in Holland, Mich., and went on to earn a Master of Fine Art in dance from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz.

Her passion for music and dance spurred her to become a professor so she could share that passion with her students.

“I knew I was going to become a college dance instructor early in my undergraduate career. It just felt like the right path for me,” she says.

She also gives credit to her father who was a college music professor.

“His passion for inspiring others and instilling a passion in them for their art form was exposed to me at an early age,” she said.

Education is something she values as well as the leadership and mentorship that comes with being a professor.

“I absolutely love teaching and passing on knowledge. And, as a teacher, you are also constantly learning, yourself, from your students because you have to keep up with new trends. I love learning, so being an educator is the best place for me,” she says.

The Department of Theatre and Dance’s strong reputation drew Hilary to Southeast.

“There was a fantastic energy in the Department and so much opportunity for growth that I couldn’t resist,” she says.

Hilary describes herself as a demanding professor. She expects a lot from her students, but she also expects them to take a lot from her as well.

“I also allow a great amount of give and take between myself and my students. It’s not all about me in the classroom,” she says.

She prides herself in making sure students are getting all they can from her and feel comfortable asking her questions.

“I encourage my students to ask questions about what we are doing and why, and I encourage them to try to discover the answers on their own. In four short years, they will be on their own, and I must prepare them for that,” she said.

She also makes sure she knows all of her students well and tries to provide “personalized education within a group setting.”

One of her favorite things about Southeast is being able to watch how much her students grow during their years here.

“It is so satisfying as a teacher to see such growth and to see them become creative artists who will have an impact on the world after graduation,” she says.

“I always tell my students to get as much as they can out of their education and to never apologize for wanting more. I tell them this because I want them to realize that they are the ones in charge of their education and that by demanding a high quality education, they are challenging us as instructors to continuously find ways to become better ourselves.”

In her free time, Hilary enjoys kayaking. She and her husband took a three-week vacation this past summer when they kayaked to Maine and back. On their journey they saw a mother dolphin with her two babies in Delaware and seals in Maine. She also enjoys hiking, traveling and reading.