Legislation authorizing the establishment of the institution under the name Mississippi Vocational College was enacted by the Mississippi Legislature in 1946.  The express purpose for the new college was to train teachers for rural and elementary schools and to provide vocational training.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held February 19, 1950, with the late Honorable Governor Fielding Wright, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, the first president of the University, Dr. James Herbert White, and interested friends participating.

The college opened in the summer of 1950 with enrollment of 205 in-service teachers.

The first academic year, 1950-51, opens with 14 regular students and seven faculty members. The college offered the bachelor of science degree in 14 areas and provided Extension Services.

The name of the institution was changed to Mississippi Valley State College in 1964. The college was authorized to offer the liberal arts degree as well as the science and education degrees.

In 1964, the name changed to Mississippi Valley State College, and in 1974, The Valley became Mississippi Valley State University. The name changes reflect the expanding mission and program offerings of the University.

Dr. Earnest A. Boykins, the college's second president, takes office in July 1971.

The Honorable Governor William A. Waller signs into law the bill granting university status to the institution on March 15, 1974. The institution name has since been known as Mississippi Valley State University.

The University began offering its first master's degree in 1976. The University now offers the master's degree in environmental health, elementary education, criminal justice, business administration, special education, rural public policy and the master of arts in teaching.

Dr. Joe L. Boyer, the third president of MVSU, takes office in January 1982.

Dr. William W. Sutton, the fourth president, takes office in July 1988.

The Greenwood Center, an off-campus site of MVSU, opens in January 1996.

Dr. Lester C. Newman, the fifth president of MVSU takes office on July 1, 1998.

The Greenville Higher Learning Center, an off-campus site of MVSU, opens January 2001.

Dr. Donna H. Oliver was named president of MVSU in October 2008 and took office effective January 1, 2009. She is the sixth president of The Valley and the first female president.

Dr. William B. Bynum, Jr., the seventh president of MVSU takes office October 2013.

Dr. Jerryl Briggs, Sr., was unanimously selected as the eighth president of MVSU on October 19, 2017. Building upon the foundation laid by his predecessors, Dr. Briggs has enhanced the mantra “ONE GOAL. ONE TEAM. ONE VALLEY” with the addition of the phrase “…IN MOTION”, which exemplifies the University’s commitment to putting into practice its values as it continues moving onward to obtain preeminence as a premier institution of higher learning.