Courage to Carry On
PROVO, Utah – Jan 06, 2021 – A common theme throughout Joseph van Scheltema’s life is to carry on—through coping with family tragedy, supporting his family as a student, and traveling through a global pandemic. But he doesn’t only carry on for himself. As an MBA student, Van Scheltema hopes his education at the BYU Marriott School of Business will help him reach out and help others as well.
Van Scheltema’s will to carry on began as he was young child being raised in South Africa. Though school did not come easy to Van Scheltema, he worked hard to learn as much as he could. At the end of first grade, he received an award for deursettingsvermoë—Afrikaans for “endurance.”
Van Scheltema’s endurance was challenged many times throughout his young life as his family faced financial difficulties and the death of his father. Van Scheltema’s drive to persevere was shaken again when his mother died during his second year in undergraduate studies. At the time, he was studying geology at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. “Her death was an emptiness in my life, but I knew that I had to carry on,” says Van Scheltema.
He received comfort during a university field trip to Western Cape, South Africa, when his mother’s image came to mind: she was happy. “At that moment, I knew everything was going to be OK,” he says.
While living in Johannesburg, Van Scheltema visited Provo and discovered BYU Marriott’s MBA program. After being accepted into the program to enroll in 2020, as well as qualifying for BYU Marriott’s Cardon International Scholarship (CIS), Van Scheltema and his family began their difficult journey to Provo while the COVID-19 virus proliferated around the world. The CIS program provides graduate management education for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living outside the United States and Canada.
Before traveling to the United States, Van Scheltema and his wife, Caitlin, needed to obtain visas for them and their two sons, six-year-old Jesse and two-year-old Aiden. But government offices were closed because of the pandemic. Van Scheltema was discouraged. “But we obviously kept on fighting,” he says.
After a string of canceled appointments and unanswered calls, he and his wife were finally able to schedule a visa interview. Because of the cost involved and the distance between the embassy in Cape Town, South Africa, and where they lived in East London, South Africa, the Van Scheltema family sold the contents of their rental home, packed only the essentials, and left to obtain their visas.
With visas finally in hand, the family headed to Provo, but their challenges weren’t over. At the airport in Boston, Van Scheltema discovered that the final flight to Salt Lake City wasn’t booked. Instead of giving up, Van Scheltema called BYU Marriott and was allowed to extend his arrival deadline to start the program. After a two-day stay at the airport, the Van Scheltema family flew to Utah. Though Van Scheltema started the MBA program late, BYU Marriott faculty and staff were happy to help him catch up.
Van Scheltema chose to come to BYU Marriott because he wanted to learn about business in an environment where he could freely express his religious beliefs as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He hopes to start his own company and give back to the world by creating a nonprofit to help young students on their educational journeys—a journey Van Scheltema himself has pursued in the face of family tragedy, financial distress, and a worldwide pandemic.
“I’ve always had this feeling that I needed to do something with my life—something I can’t quite describe—to help people,” Van Scheltema says. “I feel like, being here at BYU, I’m on that journey again, and the Lord is leading me to where I need to be.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Rebecca Nissen