Credit: Lucas Balentine / Courtesy

“I saw the struggles and challenges that underrepresented students faced, and I wanted to do something to change that,” Cal Poly engineering management graduate student Isaiah Hogan said. 

A San Luis Obispo native and former Cal Poly football player, Hogan recently became the  CEO and founder of Cal Poly’s first ever Black-owned non-profit. 

Pathway is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering underrepresented college students to break into the fields of their dreams. They give students access to industry professionals, resources and mentorship to help them develop the skills, knowledge and networks needed to succeed in these industries. 

Pathway was founded in February, but the idea came into fruition much earlier. The concept emerged after Hogan acknowledged the difficulties frequently encountered by underrepresented students when attempting to enter industries with high demand. He was inspired by the experiences he and his peers faced at Cornell during his undergraduate years and was insistent on changing the narrative for students like himself.

After recognizing these barriers, he was determined to level the playing field and created a platform with targeted resources, mentorship and opportunities to the students. 

He added, “I believe that everyone, regardless of their background, deserves an equal chance to succeed and thrive in their chosen career.”

Hogan discussed that as a Black student-founder at Cal Poly, which is a predominantly white institution (PWI), one of the unique barriers is the lack of representation and mentorship. He emphasized the importance of having people who “look like you” in positions of success. 

Without representation and access to tools such as mentors who actively face and understand your unique experiences and challenges, it is difficult to navigate certain competitive environments such as Wall Street or Big 4, Hogan said.

Even so, he also said being a student at Cal Poly has given him the opportunity to discover a diverse range of ideas, valuable perspectives and opportunities that have all profoundly shaped his entrepreneurial mindset.  

Cal Poly’s “Learn by Doing” mindset and environment has challenged him to, “think creatively, be adaptable, and continuously learn — all essential qualities for entrepreneurship,” he said.

Pathway is in the process of beginning partnerships with on-campus organizations at Cal Poly, “particularly those focusing on promoting diversity and inclusion in various fields.” They are specifically targeting those groups which focus on promoting diversity and inclusion in various fields.

With their growing collaborations, their work over the past few months has been rewarding to their staff, according to Hogan. He said one of his most rewarding moments was to simply be seeing the impact of Pathway’s work on students. 

Hogan also personally communicates with every student who joins the program.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to hear feedback from students who have gained confidence or even found a new friend through our mentorship,”Hogan said.

He fondly remembers one of his students whose father passed away. He shared the student’s story and was grateful to chat with him about his career goals and college dreams.

That student was recently accepted into Cal Poly Pomona and plans to study mechanical engineering.

 “This was such a rewarding experience,” Hogan said. “And we hope to guide many more students along this path.”

Pathway’s mission revolves around the success of all students and prioritizes making the playing field equal. They advise students to “stay proactive, be persistent and never hesitate to seek help.”

Hogan said it is important to be fearless and reach out to mentors in your field of interest.

“Networking and developing relationships can open doors to opportunities that you might not even know exist,” he said. 

Students can get involved with Pathway by signing up on their online form, participating in their events and sharing their resources with peers. They are currently welcoming volunteers of any background who are interested in helping them further their mission.