Why Caden Eskelsen (‘25) Returned to Southern Virginia University After His Mission

Caden Eskelsen
Caden Eskselsen (’25)

Caden Eskelsen (‘25), a native of Lisbon, Iowa, was initially unsure if he would be returning to complete his studies at Southern Virginia University after taking several years off to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and getting married.

“My wife, Lily, was attending BYU–I before serving her mission, so after we got married we were looking at where it made sense for us to attend school,” said Eskelsen. “And then I got an email out of the blue from Dr. Bell, one of my math professors and academic advisor before my mission.”

Dr. Bell suggested some math classes Eskelsen should take during the upcoming semester, and Eskelsen informed him that he hadn’t yet returned to Southern Virginia University. It was then Eskelsen came to a realization that pushed him to return.

“If I went to a really big school, I don’t think anyone would have emailed me after I had been gone that long.”

Shortly after returning to campus, Eskelsen was surprised to be welcomed by Dr. Dallin Lewis, one of his professors from almost two years prior, and that interaction reinforced his decision of coming back with his wife.

Now a math major with a minor in economics and a concentration in sports management, one of Eskelsen’s favorite things about Southern Virginia is the personalized attention and extra effort his mentors and professors put into his education.

Caden and Lily Eskelsen
Caden & Lily Eskelsen

“I’m interested in doing sports data analysis, and Josh Monsen in the athletics department was incredibly helpful in getting me started,” said Eskelsen. “And Tony Good, who does sports information communications here, has been amazing. Even though his job isn’t directly aligned with what I want to do, he makes the effort to help me get where I want to go.”

“Also, Dr. Bell’s influence is just super huge,” Eskelsen continued. “When I came here, my two ideas for a career were to be an art teacher or to do something with mathematics. But then I took Dr. Bell’s math class, and he is extremely smart and knows how to explain things very well—and I was sold.”

Coming from a high school of 400 students, Eskelsen found himself thriving in the small class sizes and the active participation and familiarity with professors and classmates it fostered.

“While coming to Southern Virginia University was obviously a step up in its school size for me, the environment is still the same,” said Eskelsen. “My professors know me and they know how I learn, so sitting in class and knowing that my professors are there to help me is pretty special.”

Reflecting on the faith-supportive environment on campus, Eskelsen shared that it played a pivotal role in his decision to serve a mission, which he completed in 2022, serving in the Salt Lake City West and Brazil Belo Horizonte missions.

“Both of my roommates were returned missionaries,” said Eskelsen. “I came to Southern Virginia with the idea that I was going to go on a mission, but wasn’t 100% sure. Having them as roommates and being in this gospel-centered environment definitely made it an easier decision to go. There are a ton of people here who have testimonies of what a mission can do, and I wanted that for myself.”