By giving people who otherwise might not have the chance a college-level education, BYU-Pathway Worldwide is constructing “temples of learning,” said the man who was installed Thursday evening, Nov. 16, as that new institution’s first president.
Clark G. Gilbert, the most recent past president of Brigham Young University-Idaho, was installed at inauguration ceremonies held in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City by President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
President Nelson offered remarks during the program. Also speaking was Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy and the Church’s commissioner of Education. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who chairs the executive committee of the Board of Trustees of BYU-Pathway Worldwide, conducted the program.
“At BYU-Pathway Worldwide, we are constructing temples of learning — both in the lives of our students and in the organization that serves those students,” President Gilbert said in his response after the installation by President Nelson.
“From the young man in Puebla [Mexico] who traveled hours for the first PathwayConnect gathering in Mexico City, to the single mother in Utah forced into a situation never planned, to the father in West Africa seeking to provide for his family, to the returned missionary in Boston who never thought college was a possibility, BYU-Pathway students are constructing temples of learning in their own lives.”
President Gilbert added that those who work with BYU-Pathway are likewise building temples of learning in the very creation of the new organization.
“Constructing a temple of the Lord requires that we keep Christ at the center and build according to His plans,” he remarked. “We must preserve that vision, so we don’t get lost or give up when things get difficult. We can grow in confidence as our temple structure begins to take form. But even then, we remember it is not our temple alone, but a temple of the Lord. We must stay close to the plans He has given and seek direction from those He has asked to watch over its construction.”
President Gilbert looked back on the original Pathway program which began in 2009 as an initiative at BYU-Idaho.
Prior to that time, “we studied members of the Church who were not attending college,” he recalled. “We shared with them prophetic statements on the importance of education, which were universally well received. So why were they not pursuing education?”
The three most common responses were cost, fear and lack of access.
The original program was designed to address those constraints with a remarkably affordable education, a curriculum designed to build spiritual and educational confidence and greater access through online learning and local gatherings of students in the various parts of the world, President Gilbert explained.
“As the Pathway and online-degree programs expanded, the number of students who never came to the campus at BYU-Idaho eventually exceeded the number who did,” he said.
President Gilbert said that at his own inauguration at the school just over two years ago, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, declared that “today’s challenges cannot be solved with yesterday’s tools.” Then, last February, President Uchtdorf announced the creation of BYU-Pathway Worldwide, “saying it would have the responsibility to coordinate all online certificate and degree programs in the Church Educational System,” President Gilbert recounted.
Because it needed to function throughout the Church, its focus would be on access rather than the broader resources offered by a full-service university.
“In other words, while education is a religious priority, it is also a personal responsibility,” President Gilbert said. “The Church will help you jump-start your path, but it won’t pave every possible road on your journey.”
Thus, the core emphasis will always be on the first-year PathwayConnect program and its role in building hope and confidence, he said, and the secondary emphasis will be on “highly relevant, gateway certificates.”
In a news conference prior to the inauguration, President Gilbert characterized PathwayConnect as “an on-ramp to college and a career.” Once that program is completed with a B average or higher, the student can progress on to a skill-based degree program that is only 15 credit hours and leads to an associate degree and then a bachelor’s degree.
Because of its association with BYU-Idaho, BYU-Pathway Worldwide students have access to high-quality, online courses developed by the campus faculty and online course design teams, President Gilbert said.
“BYU-Pathway will also work closely with LDS Business College in creating a flagship Pathway site in Salt Lake City as a hub of educational innovation for job skills and career preparation,” he added. “We will continue to coordinate across the Church Educational System, Self-Reliance Services and the Missionary Department as we construct this temple of learning. Only in the Church … could so many resources work in such remarkable harmony.”
President Gilbert said BYU-Pathway, as a “temple of learning,” must achieve “its deeper purposes in Christ.”
“BYU-Pathway is not just about earning a degree or finding a job,” he said. “Our focus is grounded in the fundamental work of building disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Part of that mission is helping students become more capable learners, and it is accomplished by providing opportunities for students in local areas to meet and work together, he said.
In his remarks, President Nelson praised the institution for its “impressive” numbers. “This year, 38,297 students have been enrolled in programs affiliated with BYU-Pathway Worldwide,” he noted. “Some 2,473 Church-service missionaries donate their time to facilitate gatherings at 458 sites around the globe.
“PathwayConnect has served nearly 73,000 students, many of whom have graduated and gone on to either online or campus degree programs.”
This has resulted, President Nelson noted, from a modest beginning in the fall of 2009 with only 50 students at three pilot locations.
He said BYU-Pathway Worldwide “brings an innovative approach to education — one unique to the Church Educational System.”
“Because many students cannot go to CES campuses, PathwayConnect has found a way to take the CES experience to the students,” President Nelson said.
He shared examples of how it has helped students, including Felipe Bento of Santo André, Brazil, who had always dreamed of learning English.
“When he realized he would never be promoted at work without English, he knew it was time to fulfill his dream,” President Nelson recounted. “He said, ‘In my first PathwayConnect gathering, I understood nothing and I thought, “[This] is not for me. I will give up.” And I cried. But I asked help from God, and I felt His hands in my life, helping me with my challenges.’
“Through diligent study of a topic foreign to him, Felipe learned a new language. But it was only after he exercised faith in his Father in Heaven that Felipe was able to learn and grasp the English language. You may be interested to know that Felipe received a promotion at work and is now a better provider for his family. The PathwayConnect program truly helps students find courage, go forward with faith and achieve their life goals, whether professional or educational.”
In remarks earlier in the program, Elder Clark testified that the Good Shepherd knows His sheep.
“We hear His voice. We follow Him. We know Him, and He knows us.
“Over the years I have seen this principle at work in the lives of the people who have worked in the Pathway program, including all the wonderful missionaries who have blessed the lives of tens of thousands of Heavenly Father’s children and all the employees and faculty who teach them. The people of what is now BYU-Pathway Worldwide know the voice of the Good Shepherd. He has called them and they have followed Him. They are consecrated and faithful, and the Lord Jesus Christ has blessed them and will continue to bless them.”