During the presidency of Kim B. Clark, BYU-Idaho developed the Pathway program as an initiative to help students gain the confidence and skills for a college education.
Pathway is an inexpensive educational opportunity associated with BYU-I that incorporates both online courses and local gatherings, according to the Pathway website.
Pathway takes about a year to complete, and students earn college credit that can be transferred to BYU-I and other universities, according to the Pathway website.
“The Program itself is structured in such a way that people develop skills, attitudes and have experiences that are valuable for their lives no matter what they do with the education,” President Clark said. “It teaches them how to lead, how to organize, how to work well with other people, how to plan, and it teaches them to bring the Spirit of the Lord into their daily lives.”
President Clark said the inspiration for the Pathway program goes back to when President Henry B. Eyring was over Ricks College. President Eyring stated in his inauguration that Ricks College has a responsibility to bring education to the world.
“When I became president, I just really felt strongly that now is the time,” President Clark said. “We started working on this in 2007-2008, and it just felt right.”
President Clark said pilots of Pathway were launched in Fall Semester 2009 and felt this was part of the Lord’s plan to bring higher education internationally.
Derek Hildebrand, a current BYU-I Pathway student, said the Pathway program is especially helpful for those who did not complete school or those who are unsure if college is for them.
“Before I started Pathway, I didn’t have any desire of going to school,” Hildebrand said. “It just wasn’t on my mind. Having been in Pathway for almost two full semesters, I can now say that I have really loved it.”
President Clark said there are many people who never have experienced the Church Education System and never imagined they would.
“They always say BYU, BYU-I and institutes are for somebody else but not them,” President Clark said. “So, when the opportunity comes to them and it’s real and it’s accessible and they can do it, they have this amazing hope that comes into their lives.”
Holly Empey, a BYU-I Pathway alumna, said Pathway helped her to gain valuable skills that have her grow not only temporally, but spiritually as well.
“Even though I didn’t continue on with my actual education by going back to BYU-Idaho, it was a very spiritual experience,” Empey said. “The gospel experience in Pathway helps you realize what your potential really is.”
President Clark said the university has come to understand that Pathway, when it works best, is under the direction and keys of the priesthood.
“Bishops, stake presidents, quorum presidents now think of Pathway as an instrument in their ministry,” President Clark said. “That this is something I can use to rescue people, lift people and help people be more self reliant.”
One of the differences between the online degree program and Pathway is that Pathway students do not need an endorsement.
“For many of them this is an opportunity to come back into the straight and narrow path, to come back into the Church,” President Clark said.
Empey said the social aspect of the Pathway program was something they valued.
“I really enjoyed the social part of it too,” Empey said. “It wasn’t just online. Every Thursday, we met up with missionaries who were set apart to do this with everyone else in our region.”
President Clark said both students and missionaries are blessed for their involvement with Pathway.
“The most powerful thing we see is hope and love in that they feel God’s love for them that is different than before,” President Clark said. “God created it for them.”