The Power of Simple Kindnesses
PROVO, Utah – Oct 11, 2021 – As Lady Ikeya prepared to move from Nigeria to Provo in December 2020 with her husband and four children to pursue her MPA degree from the BYU Marriott School of Business, she was touched by the tender mercies from God and acts of kindness she received from complete strangers. One example was the Cardon International Scholarship (CIS) from BYU Marriott’s Whitmore Global Business Center, which made her journey to BYU possible in the first place.
Before coming to BYU, Ikeya completed her undergraduate in economics at Imo State University in Owerri, Nigeria. She felt inspired to continue her education and come to BYU Marriott after working for FamilySearch, a family history website and nonprofit organization owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ikeya’s job for FamilySearch involved visiting local communities to collect and record oral histories from residents. This experience opened her eyes to the extreme poverty existing in her local communities. She wanted to help solve the problem, so she joined the Shenghu Family History Center, a nonprofit organization that provides items such as clothing and schoolbooks for those who can’t afford them.
As Ikeya worked with the center, she realized she wanted to pursue a career focused on helping others. Soon after this personal epiphany, she learned about BYU Marriott’s MPA program, offered through the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics. She felt drawn to the MPA program’s focus on service and leadership. When Ikeya came across information about the CIS program, she knew the scholarship was the key to achieving her goals. “We're a family of six with four kids—without the Cardon International Scholarship, coming to BYU would have been much harder for my family financially,” says Ikeya.
The CIS program offers a loan that helps students cover the cost of living, textbooks, tuition, and health insurance during their time in a BYU Marriott graduate program. Students repay the loans after they graduate, but the loans may be forgiven if the student keeps the CIS commitment to return to their home country and become involved in the local community and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Since coming to BYU Marriott, Ikeya has already recognized one way she can make a difference: by acknowledging her shared humanity with the people around her, despite their unique backgrounds. “I have come to understand that people at BYU are no different than the people at home in Nigeria,” she says. “We may do things a different way, but at the end of the day, we are humans who want to do our best and achieve our goals. Yes, sometimes our personal desires cause quarrels and misunderstandings, but we are all individuals trying to be better and do better.”
Ikeya’s time in the MPA program has also taught her about the power found in simple acts of kindness. She completed the first few months of her MPA virtually through online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The time difference between her country and Provo, where her classmates were studying, was seven hours. However, Ikeya’s classmates willingly met for group projects at a later time—near midnight in Utah—to accommodate her. The students’ thoughtfulness touched Ikeya and helped her feel like an important part of the group.
Ikeya also received significant assistance from BYU students and professors when she moved to Provo with her family in December 2020. The family brought limited belongings, and their new apartment contained no furnishings. “Ninety percent of my furniture was given to me by people who didn’t even know me,” Ikeya says. “The kindness of these strangers brought me to tears and taught me a significant deal about being my brother's keeper.
“My experience moving into an unfurnished apartment helped me realize I can facilitate change simply by watching out for other people and striving to understand their needs,” she continues. “Each person grows differently in their spiritual, financial, and academic pursuits. Instead of judging a person and saying, ‘You brought this upon yourself. Why would you pack up and bring your family here without adequate plans?’ like people could have said to me, I can support others unquestioningly and without expecting a thank you in return.”
Ikeya feels grateful not only for the kindness of strangers but also for the unwavering support of her family members. “I am so thankful to have my family here with me; I have the most adorable children in the world,” she says. “I know every mother says that, but it’s true. My husband continues to support me every step of this journey—he encourages me to follow my dreams, and without him, I would not be here at BYU Marriott.”
When she returns to Nigeria, Ikeya hopes to emulate the examples of kindness and caring for others that she witnesses at BYU. “One of the best ways for me to reach my dream of making a difference is to serve others and think about ways I can improve the lives of those around me,” she says.
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert