Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Student teaches, leads community


Classmates say that when senior David Phelps enters a room, he brings an energy unlike any other.

Phelps has played in the African Drum Corp, visited Ghana, attended Well College Ministry and joined Honors College Assembly. When he arrived at The University of Alabama, he joined The SOURCE, where he learned how student organizations develop.

“I’ve been incredibly blessed from freshman year with people who mentored me, and they put me on the right track to go help other people, so it’s fulfilling to see that legacy of assistance continuing,” Phelps said.

Phelps was born in Minnesota but calls New Orleans, La., home. He enjoys music and playing drums, guitar and piano. His hobbies include putt-putt golf and watching Louisville football.

He began with The SOURCE as a freshman, where he worked for three years learning how to assist different organizations. Director of Undergraduate and Graduate Student Involvement Rosalind Moore worked with him for more than a year at The SOURCE and was impressed by what she saw.

“I think that he is an amazing student. He has a lot of great ideas and knows how to put them into action. He is very passionate about anything he puts his hands on,” Moore said.

Phelps is best known for founding Tide Talks. Katerina Peña, who serves as vice president, remembers the very moment Phelps helped start the campus discussion forum, which they hoped to be “less lectures, more student series.”

“David reached out to me after meeting through a friend. We were sitting around my apartment wondering how cool it would be if TED Talks came to Alabama, but we didn’t know it had so many restrictions. We decided we wanted a student forum instead, so Tide Talks was born in my living room,” Peña said.

Phelps is not just known for Tide Talks. He said he deeply cares about social issues, especially those dealing with education. This prompted him to begin the campus organization Unlocked to help low-income students get through college and improve local K-12 education.

“My major is civil engineering, but my passion is to teach middle school math and science,” Phelps said. “I’ll probably end up in New York or Brooklyn one day.”

Phelps has spent his summers interning at schools – once teaching eighth-grade physics – and for kids’ clubs. He remembers the first moment he discovered his love for teaching in Fresh Food at the Ferguson Center.

“I had just bombed a test and didn’t know what to do with my life. So I’m sitting there contemplating when these two guys, who are standing in front of that school fight song, block my view. And between them are the words ‘go teach.’ It was like divine intervention – that was when it all clicked for me,” Phelps said.

He continues to champion social change and considers campus organizations to be one of the best ways to achieve progress.

“He has done everything under the stars, and he makes it look so easy,” Peña said. “After Tide Talks 3, I told him there better be other David Phelps out there. He has changed my college career.”

Phelps said he hopes the groups he has started at the university will continue their work after he graduates and stresses the idea that any student can make a difference.

“We just perceive ourselves to be apathetic,” Phelps said. “We just have to change what people see in themselves – to encourage a culture that creates change and makes things better. There’s a lot of diversity here, and everyone can do it.”

More to Discover