Alphonso Blackwell is a sophomore majoring in media and cinema arts and minoring in journalism. He is a founding member and the president of social-service club PAK, a student-athlete on the AU football team and a commentator for the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Q: What is the story of why you decided to come to AU?
A: It was actually a last-minute thing. I was going to go to a bigger school like Ball State or Indiana University like my sister goes to, but I was recruited to play football here, so I ended up changing my mind. I’m glad I made that decision.
Q: What do you think you’re getting from AU that you wouldn’t be able to get at a state school?
A: Very personal classes; we don’t have a whole lot of big classes. It feels homey. There are a lot of people that you can get along with, and it feels very connected.
Q: What passion do you have within your major field?
A: I want to be a sports anchor. I love sports; I love dealing with athletes. I definitely want to be in sports broadcasting.
Q: What is it like to try to balance football and PAK and your studies?
A: At first it was a challenge, but as the year goes on I’ve gotten accustomed to it and I can balance everything now.
Q: You started PAK as a freshman—Could you tell me about why you wanted to start PAK?
A: I wanted to start a social-service club because I felt that the other social clubs didn’t really fit what I was looking for, and some of my friends, we just thought ‘this is not really for me,’ so I wanted to start one for us, for the athletes and multicultural students who don’t have time to actually join the other social clubs. In [PAK] we’re very flexible with timing, and we’re mostly all athletes, which is a big thing, and we’re not super strict when it comes to set times. If we want to have a meeting, we ask what’s best for everyone. We’re very inclusive.
Q: As the leader of your club, how have you developed an intentional community?
A: I just try to really see what they want. Being the president, I know I’m the face, but it’s not all about me. I really try to get the guys’ opinions and see what they want to do, and how they feel about this or that. I never make a big decision without their say-so. It’s really a huge democracy in the group.
Q: You seem very humble about your accomplishments. Where would you say that humility comes from for you?
A: Probably from back at home. I never want to be a show-off or anything like that. I don’t like to brag about accomplishments when I know I can do more. I know I can further my club and have a bigger impact with humility. I just like to keep going, while always trying to improve. There’s always room for improvement, no matter what.
Q: Mike Thigpen is PAK’s supervisor. How has it been to work with him and have him advise you with the club?
A: He’s been huge. He’s been the reason why, when times were hard and it seemed like we couldn’t do it, he has always been there through the process, through recruitment and just getting it started. He’s a very important part of our group. Without him, we probably wouldn’t even be PAK. That’s why I’m so grateful he decided to stick with us, because he didn’t have to do this. It’s not a paid position. We’re very grateful to have him.
Q: Did PAK do recruitment this year?
A: We did recruitment but we didn’t go through the process this year, because we didn’t have as many people as we wanted. So, we’re going to have people join and go through the process next year with more recruits so we can have some guys coming in. We’re really trying to get our name out there more this year.
Q: Are there any specific events you guys are doing on campus this year?
A: Yes, we’re working with CAB for dodgeball this November. That’s our big thing right now, and we have some other fundraisers, like for breast cancer research, coming up. We’re excited about that. We’re doing some lupus fundraising. My mother has lupus, so we feel that lupus is important. It’s very important to us because we aren’t just a club, we’re a social-service club, so service is important to us. Serving the community is important to us.
Q: Your club’s name makes a lot of sense, with PAK standing for Phi Alpha Kappa.
A: It can mean three different things: PAK, Phi Alpha Kappa, but what we initially came up with is “protect all kinds.” So, that’s why we have different cultures in our group. We don’t just focus on one demographic, we’re very big on having different races and cultures in our group. For example, you can be black, but if you’re also from a different culture that’s like a whole other perspective. I like different perspectives in my group, not just mine or somebody else’s. I like a lot of different perspectives and that’s how I think we can flourish for years to come.
Q: Having different perspectives seems like a passion of yours. How do you think that strengthens your club?
A: I think it’s very great [to have different perspectives] because if you’re of one mind, it’s not good, per se. If you have different perspectives you can have a broader idea of what’s going on in your community. This community is not one demographic, really, it’s many demographics. International to African-American to Caucasian, there are a lot of different demographics and races, which I think is great.
Q: Do you think minorities and international students in the AU community have felt excluded at any time?
A: Sometimes. I think especially with some of our events, they don’t have as many people as we would want them to. And I think social clubs feel like that sometimes, since they just don’t appeal to some people, especially with minority groups, they just may not feel safe since they may not feel a sense of home. But, yes and no. It’s a very person-to-person question. I think me and my friends, we may go to other events to support those groups and then they may not come to our event, stuff like that.
Q: So you think students need to support each other better, even when they may come from different backgrounds?
A: I think that would really help the community. I think they should have cultural inclusiveness events, like partnerships between CAB and CRC. I think that would be great for campus in general and they could get more cultural inclusiveness in the university.