MAC’s international student population continues to grow. Student diversity offers opportunities for unique cross-cultural experiences and adds vibrance to our classes. As our economy becomes more global, the academic and social interactions among this blend of cultures open valuable personal and professional connections that will benefit our students throughout their careers and personal lives.
MAC Will Always be Our Home Away from Argentina
Marcos and Ricardo Devoto, two brothers from Buenos Aires, Argentina, found their way to Mineral Area College in 2016. As youngsters, they developed a keen interest in golf and, over time, perfected their skills enough to impress MAC Golf Coach Don Huff who offered them golf scholarships. Though the scholarships brought them to MAC, the Devotos agree it was the remarkable welcome they received from everyone at MAC that made such an indelible experience.
The decision to move so far from home was unnerving and overwhelming for the brothers—Marcos was 19 and Ricardo was 22. However, having your brother by your side made it a little easier. “We connected with Coach Huff through an athletic recruitment service company from back home. We made our own golf videos and sent them to the company along with our golf results of previous years, our translated high school transcripts, etc.” explains the duo. “Originally, we were to attend Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio. But, in February 2016, we received an email from the golf coach saying that due to financial problems, the college made the decision to cut several programs, including the golf program. That was such a sad and terrible news for us. We had already signed the Owens’ letter of intent just two months earlier. Suddenly, our dream of studying and playing college golf vanished! So, the recruitment company started searching all over again to find a college golf program that could offer us the same or even better scholarship than the one Owens had offered us. And a few months later, MAC became an option. Looking back, we are so glad that happened because we would have never had the chance to meet such incredible people at MAC plus, we would have missed such a great experience at MAC as well. Everything happens for a reason!”
Marcos recalls, “Since the first day we arrived at St. Louis airport, when Coach Don Huff (our MAC golf coach) and his wife Chris picked us up, we started noticing the tremendous quality of human beings at MAC. This confirmed we made a great choice by choosing MAC to begin our college career—both academically and athletically. MAC was, is, and will always be our home in the U.S. Not only because it is where we spent our first two years in this country by ourselves, but most importantly because of the amazing MAC experiences and great memories we have. And this is entirely because of its incredible people.” Ricardo, the elder, adds, “From the beginning we received very warm welcomes from other athletes, professors, Coach Don Huff and his wife Chris, Julie Sheets, who at that time was Director of International Student Services, Mike Overman, Pam and Dan Jaycox, all the Learning Center Staff, and Jean Merrill-Doss, former Dean of Students who has been like a host mom even years after we graduated from MAC. Our list of memorable people is endless.”
Marcos and Ricardo Devoto on the 2017 MAC Golf Team
When MAC students face a dilemma, someone is generally available to offer guidance. “Although our scholarships paid for all our books and tuition, we needed some financial help to afford our housing,” explains Ricardo, a Phi Theta Kappan. “That’s when Julie Sheets presented us with the opportunity to be MAC Ambassadors to work at college-hosted events. In addition to paying some of our housing costs, these experiences taught us so much about the importance of genuinely connecting with people and developing relationships. This reinforced the value of hard work and an awareness of opportunities to grow as a person and as a professional. It is a matter of putting in the time and being willing to make sacrifices along the way that will pay off in the future.”
MAC golf created many long-lasting memories on and off the course. They recall one favorite, “Our golf trip to Goosepond, Alabama is unforgettable. Dean Jean traveled with the team and cooked for us for the whole week. She asked each of us about a special recipe from home and cooked it. She made some empanadas for us, which were delicious even though she still says she could’ve done better. Those didn't last even five minutes on the table! That incredible trip was fun from start to end because it gave all us teammates the possibility to connect more with each other and develop stronger friendships. I even remember we had to play our practice round under some snow!”
Marcos (Left) and Ricardo at their MAC Graduation
Their golf team made history as the 2017 NJCAA DII Academic National Champions (issued by Golf Coaches Association of America) for the first time in MAC golf program. Also, the team finished in first place at the MAC Fall Fling Golf Tournament; and, individually, Ricardo placed second and Marcos took third place.
Volunteering for golf events—such as the Legends of Golf Tournament (a PGA Tour Champions competition) and the PGA Tour at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans—opened some doors. Ricardo says, “Not only was this an incredible experience to work and be alongside the best golf players in the world, but it also gave me the opportunity to meet people from Acme Oyster House, one of the event sponsors and the company for which I’m now working.”
Ricardo (Left) and Marcos volunteer as caddies for the Legends of Golf Tournament
Both concur, “MAC prepared us very well in our academic and golf careers, and in our personal life as well by increasing our confidence. We knew we could succeed in whatever we chose—realizing it all depended on how willing we were to work for it.” These Dean’s List and 4.0 GPA students compiled a long list of academic accolades and earned their AA in Business Administration. Then, scholarships to College of the Ozarks (Branson, Missouri) enabled them to continue to play college golf and earn their bachelor’s degrees in business. In May 2022, they completed their MBA degrees at Nicholls State University (Thibodaux, Louisiana) and are working. Ricardo is an operations manager at Acme Oyster House, a seafood-style restaurant in Houston, Texas, and Marcos is an assistant general manager at Fritz's Adventure, an indoor adventure park in Branson.
“One thing that made this whole journey extra special is that I had the company of my brother which made our experiences even more memorable, as we enjoyed, learned, and grew together along the way. I don’t regret our decisions and would choose to live the same life over and over again,” says Ricardo. “In May, we were lucky that our parents could come to our MBA graduation after an endless Covid-19 pandemic. After graduation, we all went on a road trip and visited MAC. It was a dream come true for us and our parents to be there again. The feeling of returning to the place that saw us grow academically, in golf, and in our personal life—when we were far away from home—was indescribable and very emotional. The happiness we felt when seeing many MAC people again and seeing their happiness to see us again was something unexpected that our parents and we will never forget. We cherished this opportunity to visit many people who we love and to see the place that saw us grow…where our whole story began.”
Ricardo and Marcos in their younger days
Marcos explains, “After 25 years of being together where we attended the same high schools, played the same sports, attended the same colleges, studied the same major, and even were teased that we ordered the same food on college golf trips (haha!), we finally "broke up." It’s not because we wanted to! We just knew that at some point it was probably going to happen. So, in July of this year, we officially split our brotherly journey because of our new jobs. We understand this is life and sometimes we must give in to certain things to achieve other things, at least for a while.”
For Marcos and Ricardo, MAC is much more than a college education. “When we think of MAC, we think of it as our second home after Argentina,” they assert. “Even though we attended three different U.S. colleges and are living away, MAC has been our first home in this country. We have many nostalgic and beautiful memories. The level of dedication, care, passion, and humility of the faculty and staff—from the dean and professors to the athletic department and gym staff to the cafeteria and bookstore employees—is something MAC's community should be very proud of. To all of MAC’s people, all we want to say is a huge Thank You! MAC will forever be in our hearts."