February 9, 2018
“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.”
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke those words during a live news conference — comprising a sentence that would forever change the face of Church-based higher education.
For me the call to serve as president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide was like a homecoming. I was involved with the initial concepts for the Pathway program in 2008 — back before it even had an official name. (At the time we were calling it “Enrollment Enhancement II” — not exactly a name that rolls off the tongue!) When Pathway first launched as a BYU-Idaho pilot in 2009, none of us could have anticipated where the Lord would take it, or that it would now operate in more than 70 countries with nearly 40,000 students.
Over the past year we’ve seen remarkable blessings as we have created a new Church entity, begun the process of relocating nearly 50 full-time employees from Rexburg to Salt Lake City, and developed a set of strategic priorities to guide our work throughout 2018. But perhaps the most remarkable initiative we’ve been engaged in since the creation of BYU-Pathway Worldwide last February is a principle I spoke about in my inaugural address — that of building temples of learning.
I have a small woodcut block that fits in my hand and shows the Rexburg Idaho Temple when it was under construction. You can see its true form emerging, but it has not yet achieved its divine purpose and potential. It is a temple of learning, but one that is still taking shape.
BYU-Pathway Worldwide is also being developed as a temple of learning, and like the early Rexburg temple, it is still under construction. The organization and its offerings will grow and mature, and we will stay close to the plans the Lord has given and seek direction from those He has asked to watch over its construction.
Some of the ways we will build BYU-Pathway Worldwide over the coming year include efforts to improve student retention, redeveloping PathwayConnect courses to better prepare students for further higher education, and working closely with Area Presidencies to serve the regional educational needs of Church members.
Most importantly, we will work more diligently to view BYU-Pathway’s programs and resources from our students’ perspectives, allowing us to see gaps in their overall experience and thereby improve the quality of our offerings. No matter how beautiful its structure, a temple must work to achieve its deeper purposes in Christ. We must do the same as we work to fulfill BYU-Pathway’s purposes — to get the gospel down into students’ hearts, to help students become capable learners, and to prepare students to lead and support families. In this sense, we recognize that we are also building temples in the lives of our students.
Our Church leaders have taught us repeatedly about the importance of education. President Uchtdorf has declared that education is a commandment,2 and President Nelson has said that education is “a religious responsibility.”3 For the first time in the history of the Church, an affordable, locally delivered Church-based higher education can be offered wherever the Church is organized. As part of the team who shares that stewardship, we feel a great responsibility to construct this temple of learning into something the Lord can use to build His kingdom across the earth.
I am grateful for the season ahead of us, and I give thanks to everyone in the extended BYU-Pathway family who makes this work possible.
Learn more about BYU-Pathway Worldwide and its programs at byupathway.lds.org.