Colleagues and former students of David Ikard, assistant professor of English, agree that he is an intense and intelligent man. A respected professor within the university, Ikard is known for his challenging courses and sense of style.
“When I first met him and saw that he was wearing a hat, I knew that he was going to be different. Then once he opened his mouth, I knew that he would be a challenging teacher,” Holly Young, senior in Africana studies, said. “Students would agree that his courses are challenging because he makes you look at the literature in very different ways.”
Ikard understands why students share this view — his demands are high.
“I want them to be excited about learning. I press them to work hard. Sometimes students want the answers but do not want to work to find these answers. Once the students see the results, they are excited and realize that this class impacted them in a rewarding way. It is all about pay off.”
Ikard said he believes students can learn a lot from his class.
“I try to get students to think independently. When they come to the text and have absorbed the criticism, they become independent thinkers.”
Ikard chose English as his focus because that is where his passion lies. When Ikard was an undergraduate student, he started as an engineering major. He was a first-generation student and wanted to get out of his small home town, so he figured that engineering would be a good field because of the money and respect garnered by engineers, he said.
Once he took the courses, he knew that his heart was not into it. He realized that he preferred going to his English and Africana studies courses. As a result, Ikard wondered what he could do with this major and decided to attain a Ph.D. so he could make a job out of his passion.
“It was the route to the career that I wanted and I do not regret it” Ikard said.
Ikard considers James Baldwin, among others, as an influential author because he “was brilliant and started asking the hard questions about racial problems and homophobia with a personal engagement. There is not one person of any hue that was better at articulating these issues with such a passion.”
Originally from North Carolina, a desire to return to the South brought Ikard to the University of Tennessee. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, UT offered him an attractive job with research opportunities.
One of the classes Ikard is teaching this semester is a class titled “Hip Hop.” This class came to life when he and George White, assistant professor of history and Africana studies, came up with the idea.
A Duke professor had written a book critiquing music, and Ikard, along with White, thought that it would be great if they could teach it. They wrote up a curriculum and the department accepted it. This class was an instant hit and reached maximum enrollment levels, according to class participants.
Ikard’s main focus includes hip hop and an exploration of white identity and black feminism. His first book was about black male feminism, a male’s perspective on feminism, and he is currently working on his third book. He said he is interested in how blacks view whites and vice versa. He also is very interested in how hip hop has influenced literature.
One of Ikard’s major concerns is with the social climate for faculty and students of color at UT.
“The potential for UT to be productive is very high. Yet I do not think that enough is being done to foster this. I want there to be a genuine effort, instead of just tolerance to foster a productive climate of mutual respect.”
With all that he has accomplished as a teacher, researcher and writer, some have wondered if Ikard has any free time.
“I have never heard one time when he was just doing nothing. If he is at home, he is hanging with his children or fixing something around the house,” said Young, one of his students who has also done research under Ikard.
At UT, Ikard teaches courses on hip hop, women in American literature and Southern literature.
“If you are looking for a teacher that will open your eyes to some mind-blowing concepts about race, then Ikard is the teacher for you. He picks the best materials to engage his class. When you leave his class you will remember him,” Young said.

Taila Reed
Staff Writer