professor
Alvan Ikoku

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Jan 2010

If you're looking for something groundbreaking and awesome, you've found it. Intro to Comparative Ethnic Studies is a fantastic course, covering the manifestations and articulations of power and power structures. In the U.S., such power structures historically have been based around some form of ethnicity (race, gender, class, sexuality, citizenship status, etc.), and this course covers them all. The first half of the semester deals with important historical terms, definitions, and movements (colonization, miscegenation, Black Power, etc.). The VERY EASY midterm (Prof. Okihiro gives you the short list of terms you'll need to know) makes sure you understand these. The second half of the semester focuses on specific articulations and manifestations of these terms, as well as on pedagogical movements in ethnic studies (feminism, experience, Latino/a Studies, Critical White Studies, etc.). We were supposed to have a final similar to the midterm, but instead we had a (somewhat creative) final paper that most students found fun and rewarding. Prof. Okihiro is a really cool person--the epitome of a wise, liberal intellectual who loves to challenge his students to think in new ways. That being said, he really wants everyone to do well, and the class is pretty easy as a result. I don't normally review TAs, but Alvan may be the best one ever. He has a Bachelor's from Stanford in human biology, a doctorate in medicine from Harvard, a master's thesis from Oxford on the history of malaria control in colonial Kenya--and now he's a Columbia English & Comparative Literature PhD candidate, as well as a kick-ass TA. He quickly learned everyone's name, took an interest in each student's response papers, and was a very fair (if not lenient) grader. In short, take this class, no matter what major you are. It's not difficult at all, fulfills the Global Core requirement, and is one of the most eye-opening courses you'll ever come across.

Feb 2008

Alvan Ikoku is the worst teacher I've ever had at Columbia. Not only was the workload extremely unreasonable, his general approach to the subject and material covered in class was (insert synonym of terrible). His rigid structure for papers made writing the paper he wanted to read nearly impossible. No matter what you did for our man Alvan, it wasn't enough. Although at times he tried to be funny, his jokes were never on point and his laugh was borderline obnoxious. He assigned nightly homework that usually took around 2 hours to complete aside from the 3 papers required for the class. As frustrating as this may sound, to add to that, he never even graded anything besides the main papers for the course. Alvan Ikoku not only ruined my Columbia experience, he directly led to worse grades on my future papers (outside of UW) when I tried to follow the structure he had suggested and was summarily marked down. If you have any faith in your ability to write a decent paper, stay away.

Jan 2008

Alvan and his PASOs will stick with me for life. You will become a better writer after his class.

Aug 2007

My life definitely changed because of Alvan not only as a writer/thinker, but as a citizen and member of the university community as a whole. I felt like University Writing with Alvan was a convocation to academia at Columbia in general. Class every day was not what you'd expect; we only occasionally did mundane paper editing, and spent most of our time discussing deep and meaningful topics inspired by assigned readings. You get a great deal of freedom from Alvan to explore your own opinions and feelings about diverse subject areas, but are expected to follow specific formats, formats which are very useful for paperwriting in the future. Alvan takes an interest in you as a person, though not in an overbearing or annoying way, and is very generous with teaching you both in and out of class if you make it clear that you want to learn and improve. Class is usually lively and fun, and Alvan constantly cracks jokes which are usually funny mostly because he said them. He's also a very inspiring guy, having graduated from Harvard med school and then left medicine to pursue his passion for literature at Columbia. I highly recommend Alvan for UniWriting; don't switch out.

Aug 2007

Alvan. Oh alvan, alvan, alvan. I had quite the love-hate relationship with young man. He has an interesting past and is a hell of a lot smarter than everyone in the class. And yes, I grudgingly admit that I learned a great deal about writing in this class. However, I hated the work load. I found it rediculous. It took an absurd amount of time. It made me want to die. But class was (for the most part) interesting. And Alvan makes it his personal goal to make sure his students actually learn. So enjoy.

Apr 2007

Alvan is undoubtedly a good teacher who knows his shit when it comes to writing or anything else in life. Although at times he can be a little cocky or almost snide, he is generally a friendly, interesting, well-meaning guy and it's nice that he has some pluck. The problems with this class don't necessarily come from him as much as from the UW curriculum, which asks students to do what is kind of a ridiculous and seemingly pointless amount of reading/writing/researching in extremely limited time periods. He is very helpful in meetings, but expects you to have your shit together. He can be lenient with deadlines when he suspects burnout; however, he is a tough grader (he's not kidding when he gives you that rubric-he can't stand grade inflation) and has very, very high expectations. I learned by the end that it is necessary to follow his directions and look very closely at the sample essays he gives in class because they demonstrate exactly what he wants. I do believe that I am a much better writer after his class, but not without plenty of tears, sleepless nights, skipped classes, and general unnecessary stress. If you are a writer really looking to fine-tune your style and don't mind being told how to write, you should love Alvan's meticulous approach. If you aren't, well...sorry.

Mar 2007

Alvan is great! He is a ex-medical student now turned humanities-guy, so he's seen everything. He's really flexible when it comes to workload, but face it, with this class, there's bound to be a lot. He puts in the extra hours to help you out with your writing, and if you ever feel stressed out, he is there to help.

Dec 2006

Alvin was a very nice guy, and did his best at explaining the progressions for the class which were sometimes very abstract. He was a stickler with getting things done, and sometimes used extensive readings that seemed unnecessarry. But he always made sure you produced something that got you a good grade and really let you direct the class.