February 23, 2017
Writer: Adam Jacobs
The one-year online program known as Pathway has helped more than 56,000 people around the world with the opportunity to begin or return to higher education.
Even before the internet, and before Ricks College became BYU-Idaho, leaders of Ricks College had the first ideas that eventually became Pathway.
In his inaugural address as president of Ricks College in 1971, Henry B. Eyring shared prophetic words in relation to the destiny of Church-funded education, saying "I believe the community which education should serve is the whole world."
He went on to direct the college to seek new methods of moving education outward from the Ricks campus to men and women in all places.
The foundations for Pathway first materialized in 2000 when Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced Ricks College would become BYU-Idaho, a four-year university.
In a reflective thesis written by Ben Petersen, he said soon after the change to a four-year university, then-president David A. Bednar challenged faculty to consider how the school might serve the entire global Church membership.
"We must learn how to assist and bless institute students and other LDS youth in Rhode Island and Rome while effectively serving our students on campus in Rexburg," said Bednar.
After being called to replace Bednar as president of BYU-Idaho, Kim B. Clark began researching previous university addresses given by Bednar and Henry B. Eyring. President Clark sensed from their messages that BYU-Idaho existed to serve more than those who came to the campus, and that it was the responsibility of the university to make that happen.
"We will find new ways to use information technology, new ways to reach more students, and to deepen the learning experiences of those we touch," said Clark.
In 2006, Clark Gilbert joined President Clark and Henry J. Eyring at BYU-Idaho. Both Gilbert and Eyring saw President Clark's vision of what was to become Pathway.
"I think of a young man in Mexico City," said Gilbert, "who just knew the Church would find them and bring opportunities of education in their lives, in their circumstances, and in a way that would bless them where they lived."
Gilbert and Henry J. Eyring led faculty in creating online courses, incorporating the Learning Model into classwork, and organized the logistics of using Institute buildings as Pathway classrooms. It was in 2008 the proposal to of creating the Pathway program was sent to the Church Board of Education, headed by Henry B. Eyring, where it was approved. In 2009, BYU-Idaho launched the first pilot class for Pathway.
April Spaulding, who helped implement the concept of student leadership into the Pathway courses, said Pathway develops character in students.
"You have students who before their first semester have never stood up in front of a classroom," said Spaulding. "We ask them to do that. The next semester, they do it again. And they're better, they're confident, and they're happier. And they say 'Yeah I'll do that next semester, too!' and so you start to see the power of that."
Spaulding said that as Pathway has grown, so have the students.
"Students come back and say, 'I was called to be Relief Society president, and I never thought I could do it, but Pathway has given me the confidence to know the Lord is there for me and I can do hard things,'" said Spaulding.
In a question and answer session following the BYU-Pathway Worldwide announcement in February, Elder Kim B. Clark said Pathway was on a course to be open to all people, in and out of the Church. As that day draws nearer, Pathway will continue to bring education to thousands of Saints across the globe.