Of Potential and Potential Energy

PROVO, Utah – May 18, 2018 – Networking with royalty is just another day on the job for Joe Onstott, whose work for an international nuclear fusion project has landed him and his family in southern France for the past nine years. 

According to Onstott, International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is blazing the trail in the field of nuclear fusion as the largest scientific construction project in the world. The first item on its agenda: develop fusion reactions to replace fossil fuels as the energy source of the future. 

“It’s an exciting project,” says Onstott, a BYU Marriott MBA alum. “And it’s got a lot of potential to benefit the world.”

The multibillion-dollar collaboration is funded by thirty-five member countries, which include China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, the United States, and members of the European Union. As head of budget management, Onstott is responsible for the project’s overall global budget as well as managing its associated costs and financial affairs.

Onstott received both his bachelor’s degree in European studies in 1996 and his MBA with an emphasis in international business in 2000 from Brigham Young University. As an undergrad, he dreamed of someday working internationally. Little could he fathom that someday his employers would ask him to deliver a speech about their project in London—or that Princess Anne would be listening.

“This has been a fulfillment of my dream,” he says. “It’s been a great experience because it’s combined my business education from my MBA program with my love of languages and cultures.”

Onstott and his wife, Julie, had originally planned to stay with the project for a couple of years. But two years turned to nine, and their three French-speaking children have enjoyed growing up in an international environment. The Onstotts have explored much of France and traveled around Europe, gaining exposure to many different cultures, both in their travels and through experiences at ITER.

“You can learn a lot from other people,” Onstott remarks. “Working with various cultures on a daily basis presents different challenges, but I’ve found that people who have a common goal are able to overcome most difficulties and work together effectively.”

Onstott saw this principle personified during an ITER council meeting, comparable in format to a United Nations assembly meeting. At one point during the proceedings, the company hit a roadblock with the Russian delegation, and Onstott was able to use his Russian to speak to the delegate, diffuse tension, and help the parties come to a common understanding and resolution.

His gratitude deepened that day for both the Russian business classes and the strategy and supply chain management classes he took as an MBA student, which he has drawn upon often throughout his career. 

After nearly a decade working in an industry fixated on potential energy, Onstott thanks BYU for helping him see potential within himself.

“More than anything, what the MBA program gave me is confidence—confidence to come into a meeting and be able to discuss various issues in an intelligent way,” Onstott says. “It pushed me to continue to look for the right opportunity and not just be satisfied with something else, and I think that really helped me get into the position I’m in today.”

During his time at ITER, Onstott has repeatedly recruited from the pool of BYU MBA alums, citing their commendable traits. 

“I know that BYU Marriott MBA students are hard-working and intelligent, and I’ve had good experiences with all three I’ve recruited,” notes Onstott. “I gained a lot from the MBA program and from BYU in general, and I would like to be able to give that back to others.”

For Onstott, reaching out to fellow alums is more than a gesture of loyalty to his alma mater. It showcases his desire to contribute both to the success of individuals and of a global society working to harness potential—and potential energy. 

MBA alum Joe Onstott has found success in France at ITER

Media Contact: Jordan Christiansen (801) 422-8938
Writer: Afton Izu