On the Path to Greatness: Community College Students Get a Clear Path to U of I

September 5, 2017

When Dan Henderson, Caterpillar’s Director of Innovation & Emerging Technology, graduated from high school, he—like many graduates—was uncertain about what the future held. He knew he wanted to go to the University of Illinois (U of I) to study electrical engineering, but with thousands of applicants to that program, competition was fierce. Fortunately, the university accepted him into the engineering program, and today, he leads a team of more than 900 innovators at Caterpillar in 15 countries across the world. 

The future could be just as bright for another U of I electrical engineering student—Arrian Movahhedi—thanks to a program called Pathway to Illinois. 

When Arrian was a kid growing up in Iran, he was fascinated by how things worked. He loved taking apart things in his house—clocks, toasters, and a variety of other things—to figure out how they functioned and eventually went on to experiment with making small circuits. His curiosity about electrical components continued in Normal, Illinois, where his family immigrated when he was twelve years old. Arrian later realized electrical engineering would be a great fit for him, but there was one problem: He struggled with standardized tests in high school, so his ACT scores weren’t strong enough to compete with the thousands of other applicants at U of I.

So, Arrian decided to first attend Illinois Central College (ICC) in Peoria, Illinois, where he dove into his studies and learned about Pathway: A program that provides a direct path to U of I from several community colleges in Illinois, including ICC.

Students who join the Pathway program before completing 30 transferable credit hours are guaranteed U of I admittance, as long as they earn a competitive GPA for whatever program they plan to major in, regardless of their high school grades or ACT/SAT scores. The students also receive dedicated, personalized advising from U of I during their time in community college.

Arrian said, “I heard about Pathway from my advisor at ICC and was so excited about the opportunity the program offered. I connected with the advisor at U of I, and she was awesome! Because of her, I knew exactly which classes to take at ICC for a smooth transition to U of I. Without that help, I probably would’ve found out—way too late—that I missed something or should’ve taken additional classes. So, I took all the right classes and kept my GPA strong, and bam! – I was at U of I.”

Arrian has excelled at U of I, working on wireless power transmission and becoming an undergrad research assistant in the Physics Department. So what’s next for him? Arrian plans to attend graduate school to get his Masters degree in electrical engineering. And after that, who knows? Maybe someday he’ll walk the halls at Caterpillar, following in Dan Henderson’s footsteps. 

Do you know any students who might benefit from the Pathway program? Tell them to talk to their academic advisors at their Illinois high school or community college for more information. (See the list of participating community colleges below.) For additional information, click here or contact Holly Herrera, U of I Coordinator of Transfer Advising, at holly10@illinois.edu.

  • Illinois Central College
  • Danville Community College
  • Parkland College
  • Rock Valley College
  • City Colleges of Chicago

The Pathway program is administered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in partnership with select Illinois community colleges, with support from Caterpillar Inc. for the ICC Pathway to Illinois program. 

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Pathway to Illinois Program