Charles Mike III, ’11, is a self-professed lifelong film buff, but working with his father at the University of Richmond showed him how to use his art to instill social change.

Five years ago, when the University offered Chuck Mike a position as associate professor of theatre, Charles and his sister joined their father in Richmond. As dual-citizens, the plan had always been for the two to attend American universities.

As a first-year student, the younger Mike helped his father — an internationally acclaimed director — create a video prologue and epilogue for the theatre department’s production of “The Meeting.” Mike had long been a film buff, but this was his first time using video editing software. His work caught the eye of Dan Roberts, a professor in the School of Continuing Studies and creator of the National Public Radio series “A Moment in Time.” Roberts asked him to assist with filming and video production for the award-winning program.

“I pretty much learned how to use editing software through them,” he says. “Because the program covers a wide variety of topics, I had the rare privilege of learning more about global socio-political history, while I worked in a field I really enjoyed.”

His father’s work using theater to inspire social change also motivated Mike to use his own art for similar purposes, particularly related to immigration issues, racism and sexuality.

“We share that interest in justice and cultural issues,” he says. “I could spend all day learning about people.”

Mike’s own interests collided when a friend, Zhivko Illeieff, '11, approached him about filming a documentary together. Growing up in Bulgaria, Illeieff saw the disconnect between older generations who witnessed the transition from communism and his own generation. With a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant to fund the project, Mike and Illeieff spent six weeks travelling the country and interviewing residents.

“[Illeieff] wanted me to help him because of my film background and because we’re both international studies majors, so we share similar interests,” Mike says. “I basically learned how to make a documentary from scratch.”

Mike doesn’t just support social issues from behind the camera, though. He played a critical role in bringing Alpha Phi Alpha, a fraternity for African-American men, to the University. As a national organization with members ranging from W.E.B. DuBois and Martin Luther King, Jr., to Thurgood Marshall, Mike felt the fraternity was the perfect vehicle to make a statement about African-American men.

“Coming in as a freshman, I knew I wanted to start an Alpha chapter here,” he says. “I felt there were many dynamics of African-American men that weren’t represented on campus; we needed to show more than athletes and scholars. I thought there was a lot more we could offer in terms of social service and academics.”

Since it was chartered in October 2009, Mike says the chapter has been active at the University, and the brothers volunteer on a regular basis. “Our members are involved in a lot of things on campus,” he says. “I really enjoy when people don’t realize we’re Alphas, because we just want to do service projects, and being an Alpha comes second to that.”

While Mike isn’t sure where his next project will take him, he’s considering following his father’s steps in one more direction — this time to law school. While his father chose his passion for theater over a law career, Mike hopes to combine a legal education with his film pursuits.

“My family is from the Niger Delta region, and there’s a lot of conflict there, so I definitely see a lot of room to combine film with environmental law,” he says. “I feel like I have to tools to express myself, but I’m just trying to figure out what I want to say and how I want to say it.”