Dr. David Beard

Professional Title
Professor of Rhetoric, Scientific and Technical Communication in the Department of English, Linguistics, and Writing Studies

Photo of Dr. David Beard

Research & Teaching Areas

I work in rhetoric, writing, and communication.  My area of emphasis is listening studies.  I seek to understand how people persuade each other in business, politics, social movements and interpersonal relationships.  I also want to understand how individuals tell their story to others (in writing, in speaking, and in other forms of performance) as part of genuine, authentic communication.  

I teach courses in board game design, in local authors, in grant writing and project planning, in public relations writing, in environmental writing, and in nonfiction graphic novels and comics.


Methodologies I Specialize In Using and Teaching

I work in close textual analysis and oral history, but with an openness to triangulating what I find in that research with other methodologies (e.g. GIS).


Philosophy of Relationship with Graduate Students

Ideally, I exist to get out of your way, and to help remove the obstacles to your learning.  The strongest dimension of graduate education is the ability for a student to be self-directed.  It’s my job not to lead you, but to walk a few feet ahead of you on the path you want to follow, so that I can clear the path.  

This philosophy places a great burden on the student, insofar as you need to know a path you want to explore.  If you do, and if you are ready to walk it, count me in as a committee member, project supervisor, advisor, or mentor.


How My Work Contributes to the World

I follow research questions wherever they lead me.  For example, I’ve written about life in Duluth under Covid, about the first openly gay professional wrestler, about contact between indigenous and settler cultures in Canada, and about the persuasive strategies of Donald Trump.  

I write for academic audiences, yes, but also for the public -- I have delivered workshops on listening to Steampunk conventions and workshops on teaching about Red Summer for local high school teachers.  

In grant writing, I bring the university into dialogue with the community -- for the benefit of both.


Community and Professional Organizations

I have been active in nonprofits in the Duluth region, including organizations committed to art, to wildlife rehabilitation, and to equity & social justice.


Where Do My Advisees Go?

My advisees have pursued doctoral degrees in English, in Geography, and in Veterinary Medicine.  They have become consultants working with the criminal justice system;  they have found work as university administrators in Western Wisconsin.  They work in community nonprofits and in McNair programs.  My advisees work for the Entrepreneur Fund and (of course) for the University of Minnesota Duluth. 


Qualifications & Limitations

On Advising

  • Dr. Beard will advise students in the Masters programs in English, Linguistics, and Writing Studies and in Professional Studies.  David will also advise any student across campus in the Graduate Minor in Literacy and Rhetorical Studies..  
  • Dr. Beard will advise no more than four students at any time.  If I say “no,” it means I reached my limit -- not that there is something wrong with you

On Independent Studies and Project Supervision

  • Dr. Beard will only direct independent studies over the summer if he is “on contract” for summer teaching.
  • Dr. Beard will only direct theses and “plan B” projects after you have taken a course with him, so he can “meet” you as a scholar.

Questions Dr. Beard will ask every Advisee

  • Have you considered a Minor?  Minors include American Indian Studies, English, and Literacy & Rhetorical Studies, among others.
  • Have you considered an internship?
  • What other professional development work are you doing?  Have you proposed to attend or present at a conference?  Have you published a book review?  

And the Most Important Question

  • Where do you want to be in five years?  How can this degree (and me) get you there?

Final Thoughts

Graduate education is about the learning you seek and the opportunities you seize, not what the program gives you.  Adrienne Rich wrote this about education for women;  I think it is true of all education:

The contract on the student's part involves that you demand to be taken seriously so that you can also go on taking yourself seriously. This means seeking out criticism, recognizing that the most affirming thing anyone can do for you is demand that you push yourself further, show you the range of what you can do. It means rejecting attitudes of "take-it-easy," "why-be-so-serious," "why-worry-you'll-probably-get-married-anyway." It means assuming your share of responsibility for what happens in the classroom, because that affects the quality of your daily life here. It means that the student sees herself engaged with her teachers in active, ongoing struggle for a real education. But for her to do this, her teachers must be committed to belief that women's minds and experience are intrinsically valuable and indispensable to any civilization worthy the name: that there is no more exhilarating and intellectually fertile place in the academic world today than a women's college -- if both students and teachers in large enough numbers are trying to fulfill this contract. The contract is really a pledge of mutual seriousness about women, about language, ideas, method, and values. It is our shared commitment toward a world in which the inborn potentialities of so many women's minds will not longer be wasted, raveled-away, paralyzed, or denied. 

There is no more exhilarating and intellectually fertile place than graduate education at UMD -- if both students and teachers fulfill the contract -- a pledge of mutual seriousness about students, about language, ideas, method, and values.  I’m in, if you are.