Name: Patricia Figueiredo
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Currently Resides: Minneola, Florida
Occupation: Volleyball Coordinator and Coach, Montverde Academy
All Degrees Received: Associate of Arts-General Studies, MSU-WP, 2010; Bachelor of Science-Economics with minor in business, Florida State University, 2012; Master of Leadership and Communication, University of Texas-El Paso, 2018
“Missouri State University-West Plains changed my life completely.”
Patricia “Paty” Figueiredo always new she wanted to pursue a degree, get a good job and help her family. She never dreamed she could accomplish those goals while playing volleyball outside her native country of Brazil.
“I was contacted by Ju Ripper (Juliana Nogueira), who was a volleyball player at Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) in 2002-2003. Ju also was from Rio de Janeiro and talked to me about playing for the Grizzlies after she found out the coaches were looking for a setter in 2008,” Paty recalled. “It never crossed my mind that I would go to the states to play volleyball and pursue a degree. I had no idea where West Plains was, but when Ju and her family started talking to me about the campus and the coaches, I got excited and fell in love with the idea right away.”
The decision to leave her family for the first time and go to a foreign country came with mixed emotions, though. “When I first started at MSU-WP, I didn’t know what I was going to find and all of the challenges I was going to face in a short time. It was a mix of feelings. I was excited to start a new chapter of my life, but I didn’t realize that it would be so hard to be away from my family while having the pressure of learning a new language and a different culture,” Paty said.
“Our team became a family as soon as we met each other for the first time.”
The first couple of weeks in West Plains were very tough, Paty recalled, and she almost gave up and went back to Brazil. But connecting with her teammates, coaches, professors, advisers and a host family made the transition better. “I was fortunate to have special people in my life during that time, and I call them angels. They held my hand when I needed it most and loved me like I was part of their own family,” Paty said.
As Paty settled into her routine of classes, practices, games and study hall, she discovered MSU-WP’s small size had many advantages. “With the small campus, classes and practice were within walking distance. There was a cafeteria in the middle of campus and close to the dorms, which made it easy to grab a bite to eat in between classes and on the way to practices. The library was always open for study hall, and it was right across from our dorm. We would always have activities that helped us connect to other students, faculty and staff. It was an amazing environment,” she said.
“Today I feel stronger than when I first arrived at MSU-WP, and I know that with dedication and perseverance, we are capable of achieving anything we want in life,” Paty added. “My time at MSU-WP really taught me the true meaning of empathy, resilience, determination, love and respect.”
“My degree has allowed me to realize how important it is to be a good person and help others.”
Since graduating from MSU-WP in 2010 and completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Paty has worked for big corporations and coached volleyball, but it’s been through her positions as a coach that she’s gained the most satisfaction. “I have to say that my greatest professional accomplishments have been as a coach for the fact that I’ve been able to contribute to the lives of many people,” she explained. “I realized that doing what you love and making a difference in people’s lives is the greatest accomplishment a person can have in life.”
She credits her experiences at MSU-WP and in the U.S. for helping her discover her ability to help others. “My time as a student athlete in the U.S. allowed me to get a good degree and to accomplish incredible things on and off the court. These experiences made me the person I am today, and I do everything I can to give it back to the community. Education transforms lives, and it transformed mine in a way that I wouldn’t change for anything,” Paty explained.
“My experience at MSU-WP was unique and special in so many ways.”
Paty has no regrets in her decision to start her educational journey at MSU-WP. “I would do anything to go back in time and relive those moments. It wasn’t always easy. I was far from my family, living in a different culture, and learning a new language. Many times, I wanted to quit and go back home, but today I see that this experience was essential for my development as a person and a player. I have friends and memories that will be forever in my mind, and I’m so grateful for every person who has helped me along the way,” she said.
She also offered some words of advice for prospective students at MSU-WP. “Be open, be grateful and take every second of your time in college to discover new things and meet people. Many times in life we think we know what will happen in the future and the path that we will take; however, life is constantly changing, and you may find out things about yourself and your abilities that you never thought you would have,” she said.
“Be kind and empathetic, and you will find that helping others and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes will lead you to see life from different perspectives and understand what others may be going through,” she added. “It will make you a better person in many different ways.”