“The seeds we’re planting today will grow and become mighty oaks, and their branches will run all over the earth,” said Jacob Spori in an address to Bannock Stake Academy, an academy that would eventually become Ricks College and then BYU-Idaho.
In 2009, when the Pathway program was more of an idea than a reality, Clark G. Gilbert, and J.D. Griffith, pioneers in the Pathway program, planted an oak tree. The tree was to represent the Pathway program. Though small at first, it would grow to reach across the globe, according to the article, “Pathway Takes Root”
President Gilbert played an integral role in the making of the Pathway and the online program, according to the article, “From Clark to Gilbert.”
He worked closely with Griffith; they would discuss ideas and hammer out the details of the Pathway and online program, until eventually it was realized into what it is today.
“Pathway has been over 100 years in the making,” said Seth Nehring, the Pathway communication coordinator at BYU-I.
Nehring said the goal of the Pathway program is to help students overcome the obstacles that are holding them back from their goals. Those obstacles include the inability to move locations to attend a university, not having enough money to attend and the fear of rejection that comes with applying to college.
“Beyond that, we have three purposes of Pathway,” Nehring said. “Those are: first, to get the gospel down into students hearts, second, help students become capable learners, and three, prepare students to lead and support families.”
Nehring said implementing the Pathway program was not without its challenges.
Nehring said the biggest challenge after creating the course curriculum for Pathway and the online program was keeping up with the demand for Pathway.
“The biggest challenge has been: how do we serve the most people possible and do it at a pace and level that’s going to be sustainable?” Nehring said. “There are a lot of opportunities for growth.”
The Pathway program has grown to include 14,983 students currently enrolled, according to the Fall Semester 2015 statistical report. They have 387 operating sights and span across 39 countries. Pathway has awarded 13,082 certificates signifying completion of the Pathway program. Overall, the Pathway program has served 40,883 students.
Nehring said when President Gilbert came to work on the online courses, he was able to implement a program called Destructive Innovation.
Nehring said that this program means separating the creation process of online courses from on-campus courses. This enabled them to innovate and create a large number of courses quickly and avoid the original process that campus courses have to go through. After the courses were created, online and campus were brought back together to create a more unified degree whether the student attended on campus or online.
Nehring said it is because of the resources The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides, such as meeting houses that can be used for Pathway meetings, and the excellent online courses that BYU-I has developed that make Pathway possible. He said no other university that he knows of has the capability of launching something like the Pathway program.
“The most beneficial part of Pathway is that students are gaining an education the Lord’s way,” Nehring said. “They’re using the learning model. They’re able to learn with the help of the Spirit and to be able to do it in an environment that will help them build their testimonies and be providers for their families.”