I have been standing all my life in the direct path of a battery of signals the most accurately transmitted most untranslatable language in the universe. I am a galactic cloud so deep so involuted that a light wave could take 15 years to travel through me and has taken. I am an instrument in the shape of a woman trying to translate pulsations into images for the relief of the body and the reconstruction of the mind.

- Adrienne Rich, Planetarium


My name is Janel, but my friends and colleagues know me as "J." I am currently an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and the Service-Learning Coordinator at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

On July 1. 2015 I will be starting a new appointment as an Assistant Professor of Communicaton Studies at Randolph College.

I currently live in Central Virginia and I am an avid homebrewer, gardener, art-maker, music-lover and sports fan.

From my Blog

Parables from the Garden: We have to Fix the Soil

A white paper published by an Extension Specialist working out of the Rutgers University Agricultural Experiment Station provided a concise but detailed explanation of how soil health influences the flavor of tomatoes. Nutrient deficient soils will of course still produce tomatoes, some of them excellent. But the fruits are more likely to ripen unevenly, crack, be undersized, or lack the fullness of flavor that a well nourished tomato might achieve. And of course, a well nourished soil will produce a small or mealy tomato as well, but that crop has a better chance of producing fruit that fulfills its potential. More >>

"Drink Local" published in Food and Everyday Life

Edited by Thomas M. Conroy, this book offers a number of complementary approaches and topics around the parameters of the “ordinary, everyday” perspective on food. These studies highlight aspects of food production, distribution, and consumption, as well as the discourse on food. Chapters discuss examples ranging from the cultural meanings of food as represented on television, to the practices of food budgeting, to the cultural politics of such practices as developing new forms of urban agriculture and sustainable brewing--the subject of the chapter I contributed to the volume. Get your copy on Amazon.com

From the Twittersphere

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Work Summary

I am scholar, college professor, and communications professional. I pride myself on producing work that integrates these three skill sets, maximizing results for my students and clients.


Over the past 9 years, I’ve taught undergraduate courses as a graduate student, Lecturer, and full-time Assistant Professor in two large state universities, three community colleges, and a small private fine arts college. Each day I have the opportunity to interact with students, whether in the classroom, in our shared community, or electronically, I work to accomplish three goals—to emphasize the importance of learning, to concretize the connections between academic knowledge and students’ lived experiences, and to foster critical awareness of social injustice.


Marketing Communications

For more than a decade, I've worked in the marketing communications industry. I have created a range of web sites, newsletters, advertisements, corporate identities and logos, press releases, blogs, multimedia presentations, signage, instructional technology and more. In each of these applications, I strive to differentiate my work by applying theory-based and market-proven strategies that deliver measurable results.

Home thought play blog


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Teaching Statement

Current Courses Taught

Public Speaking (CST100)

The ability to speak in public is essential to civic engagement in a democratic society.  Engaged citizens are able to make a difference in their own lives, in the lives of their peers, and in their communities through effective public communication.  This course applies the theory and principles of public speaking with an emphasis on preparation and delivery.  While addressing the unique challenges of contemporary public speaking, students are guided through topic selection, organization, preparation, and delivery in both formal and informal speaking contexts.

** This semester I am excited to be teaching a section of Public Speaking in the Fluvanna Correctional Facility for Women

Recent Courses Taught - 2014

Intercultural Communication (CST229)

This class dives into the ways that culture interrelates with and affects communication processes. We live in an era of rapid globalization, social media and other information networks connect us to other people, ideas, institutions, and artifacts (both here in the U.S. and beyond) more quickly and extensively than ever before. Being able to communicate across cultures is no longer just an advantage, it is becoming more and more imperative to our ability to function in a diverse workplace, city, and world.

This course will challenge you to redefine your previously held ideas about culture, investigate how culture and communication work together to shape our world, increase your sensitivity to other cultures here in the U.S. and abroad, and perhaps most importantly deepen your understanding of your own cultural background, and the contexts (social, cultural and historical) in which you live and communicate.

Survey of Popular Culture (ENG247)

Popular culture is an area of study that allows students to contemplate American history, beliefs, diversity, emotional make-up, and socio-economic relations. In this course, students will confront popular culture through observation, reflection, critical thinking, and problem solving in order to understanding how popular culture shapes our everyday lives. Students focus on diverse forms of popular culture and engage in discussion and interpretation individually and in-group work. This courses encourages students to bring a critical eye to aspects of everyday life that they might otherwise take for granted.

Public Speaking (CST100)

Selected Courses Taught

Practices of Cultural Studies

This course is an intensive introduction to Cultural Studies, an interdisciplinary tradition that emerged primarily from the UK and US in the 1950s and 1960s. Students are encouraged to take a conjunctural rather than disciplinary approach to academic work, as the course mirrors the evolution of cultural studies over the last 5-6 decades, organizing around central problematics, themes, or crises in the contemporary world that seem to require more than simplistic explanations.

Media and Popular Culture

In this course students examined the communication processes and cultural significance of popular media. The course was structured as a dialogue between mainstream American popular culture and associated sub-cultural responses across a number of traditional and emerging media forms.

Communication Through Web Design

I independently designed this course to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of communication practices in online media with emphasis on content, editing, usability, and design. Students, most with no web design or scripting experience, created websites as a final project for this course.

Gender and Interaction

In this course, students discovered how gender is constructed and performed in our society and the implications of those constructions. We focused on the ways in which gender is created, established, communicated, and reified through rhetoric and rhetorical interaction.



Sample Marketing Communication Projects


Web Design: Thomas J Condon


Web Design: School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University

Package Design: Beer Label

Home work play blog


UNCPhD - Communication Studies, Certificate in Cultural Studies

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

sdsu logoMA - Communication Studies

San Diego State University

AIU logoBFA - Visual Communication, Concentration in Digital Design

American InterContinental University

vt logoBA - English, Concentration in Creative Writing

Virginia Tech

Conference Activity

Upcoming Presentations

Nothing currently confirmed.

Previous Presentations

Beckham, J. N. (2014, November). The orthodoxy of the farmers market: Popular constructions of the green economy, poverty alienation, and the question of urban food sovereignty. Presented at the annual conference of the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Studies Association, Baltimore, MD

Beckham, J. N. (2011, November). Craft Beer and the Technologies of Subculture. Presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association, New Orleans, LA.

Beckham, J. N. (2010, June). Food and Drink: Engaging the Logics of New Mediation. Presented at the annual meeting of the Media Ecology Association, Orono, ME. ** Recipient of Linda Elson Scholar Award for Top Student Paper

Beckham, J. N. (2008, November). From Subcultures to Micro-networks: Revising the Modern Narrative of Progress. Presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association, San Diego, CA.

Beckham, J. N. (2008, November). Ideological Crystal Lattice or Machine Gun Critique?: The Simpsons Itchy and Scratchy Land. Presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association - San Diego, CA.

Beckham, J. N. (2008, November). De-coloniality and Domestic Resistance: Everyday Life inside/outside the Academy. Presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association - San Diego, CA.

Beckham, J. N. (2007, February). There's No 'I' in Token: Resistance, Complicity, and the Activist Potential of Tokenism. Presented at the annual meeting of the Western States Communication Association – Seattle, WA.

Beckham, J. N. (2006, December). Communicating Art-work: Queering the Construction of Feminine Gender Identities. Presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association - San Antonio, TX.

Beckham, J. N. & Condon, T. C. (2006, May). Discord and the Academy: An Interdisciplinary Artistic Dialogue on Identity and the Future of Qualitative Research. Presented at the 2nd International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry – Champaign-Urbana, IL.

Beckham, J. N. (2006, February). When ‘Queer' is not: Subverting the Subversive through Binary Identity Construction. Presented at the annual meeting of the Western States Communication Association – Palm Springs, CA.

Doctoral Dissertation

As a material commodity beer has remained surprisingly unchanged since it's invention—composed of roughly the same ingredients, combined in roughly the same proportions, to achieve roughly the same product. What has been in dramatic flux, particularly over the past 100 years, is how beer is valued. This study considers the complex and numerous weavings of beer into the fabric of contemporary American life. Changes in the valuation of beer (for instance beer valued as a means of supporting US troops during WWII, as a racialized social ill, as emblematic of American masculinity, as a touchstone of activism advocating sustainable practices of producing, distributing, and consuming food and dink) and subsequent changes in pricing and profit are most often seen as products of "economic" change or products of "cultural" change. This project endeavors to understand such changes as a complex articulation of the two.

I created a series of visual artwork as a companion piece to this research project >>


Director - Lawrence Grossberg, PhD
Sarah Dempsey, PhD
Jay Garcia, PhD
Michael Palm, PhD
John Pickles, PhD

Masters Thesis

Art speaks to, through, and in the case of confessional art, about individuals as cultural players. Through confessional art and the privileging of personal experience, questions of identity enter public discourse. When individuals experience music, attend poetic performances, or view paintings created by confessional artists, they enter into dialogue with artists’ creative processes and artistic products. Through this dialogue, both socially and personally assumed identities are cooperatively constructed, performed, and deconstructed by both the creators and users of art. My thesis research explored how the experience of identity dissonance, a psycho-emotional discomfort reified by an individual’s performance of two or more incompatible identities, is rhetorically enacted and subsequently legitimized by confessional art. A mixed critical rhetorical and performative autoethnographic methodology was used. Through the critical cultural analysis of a body of contemporary confessional art works, the rhetorical implications of artistic dialogue were investigated as they pertain to the performance and negotiation of identities. By including autoethnographic reflexivity and a performative engagement with the rhetorical texts, a holistic research narrative was generated that acknowledges the research process as an enactment of identity in itself and embraces the necessarily activist investment on the part of the researcher as a queer, black, female scholar.


Director – Valerie Renegar, PhD
Patricia Geist-Martin, PhD
Esther Rothblum, PhD

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Areas of Interest

I am broadly interested in the various intersections of cultural economy, popular material culture, media studies, and visual culture. Currently, this hybrid intellectual space is finding expression in research in critical food studies. I am fascinated by everyday cultural practices, how they are implicated in relations of power–how racism, classism, sexism, heteronormativity and religious intolerance, for example, exist as particular expressions of power that are often subtle, mutable, complexly interrelated, easily justified and seemingly innocuous.

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Curriculum Vitae


Faculty Innovation Grant for "PARTNERS"

PVCC Education Foundation

Paul Lee Professional Development Grant for "PARTNERS Faculty Devlopment: Integrating Service-Learning into the Curriculum"

Virginia Community College System

Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards

Martha Nell Hardy Award for Outstanding Teaching

Given to the graduate student whose work in teaching her or his own class or assistance with a large lecture section is characterized by excellence. 2011

Special Initiatives Award

Recognizes the student, group of students, or student organization responsible for initiating projects or activities of a special or continuing nature that contribute substantially to the life and well-being of the Department of Communication Studies. 2010

Outstanding Achievement in Service & Leadership

Given to the graduate student who provides direction, coordination, personal initiative, and service to the graduate students, the department, and the discipline. 2007

William N. Reynolds Royster Fellowship

Competitive, UNC-wide, 5-year fellowship. $20,000 annual stipend, fees, tuition, and health insurance. 2006

Virginia Tech Literary Prize

First Place, Poetry for Yesterday You Called for Your Sweater. University-wide literary competition. 2000

Virginia Tech Literary Prize

Second Place, Poetry for Blues Bar. University-wide literary competition. 2000

Virginia Tech Creative Writing Award

Awarded to a graduating senior for demonstrated excellence in creative writing. 2000

Alfred E. Knobler Scholarship

Cash award provided to a graduating senior demonstrations “love of learning, appreciation of English, commitment to community, and high personal and academic goals.” $1,500


Book Chapters

Beckham, J. N. (2014). Drinking Local: Sustainable brewing, alternative food networks, and the politics of valuation. In T. Conroy (Ed.), Food and Everyday Life. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Refereed Journal Articles

Beckham, J. N. (2012). Food and Drink: Engaging the Logics of New Mediation. Explorations in Media Ecology, 10 (1&2). 25-38.

Creative Writing

Beckham, J. N. (2000, Fall). Giving it Back [Poem]. Silhouette Literary Magazine.

Beckham, J. N. (2000, Spring). threehundredsixty [Poem]. Silhouette Literary Magazine.

Beckham, J. N. (2000, Fall). Tuto [Short Fiction]. Silhouette Literary Magazine.

Beckham, J. N. The Answers to All Your Questions [Poem]. HazMat Literary Review

Beckham, J. N. (2003). Blues Bar [Poem]. Exit 13 Magazine, 11

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Gardening Projects

My recent experiments with assembling low cost hydroponic gardens.


The Wonderful World of Beer

You get range of responses when you tell someone that you are intellectually, professionally, artistically, politically and recreationally into beer. But as someone once told me, these kinds of things are just entry points for thinking about and engaging the contemporary moment. Whether this is true or not, beer is a passion I take seriously.

Beer Employment

From 2009 - 2012, I worked as the Homebrewing and Winemaking Supply Manager for Supply Fifth Season Gardening Company, purchasing inventory for five "brew and grrow" retail locations throughout NC and VA.

Beer Activism

The Pink Boots Society was created to inspire, encourage and empower women to advance their careers in the Beer Industry through networking and education. As a member, I work to:

  • Encourage women consumers to taste beer and learn about the history and craft of beer.
  • Encourage women to become homebrewers.
  • Encourage women to become professionals in the beer industry.
  • Support PBS members to advance their beer careers through education.
  • Promote women in the beer industry to Media.
  • Increase the number of women beer judges at GABF and other competitions.

Beer Appreciation and Education

September 10th, 2011- Top of the Hops - Charlottesville, VA
I gave a talk for Fifth Season on homebrewing in the Greatbrewers.com Brew University Area of the festival.

September 22nd, 2012- The Science of Brewing - Durham, NC
I did a demonstration with co-worker Ethan Johnston for Fifth Season about the science behind brewing ingredients at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science's Science of Brewing Event. We got some press in the Independent Weekly.

October 8th, 2012- World Beer Festival - Durham, NC
I again served on the "Brew Crew" for the 16th Annual World Beer Festival in Durham, NC. I was on the festival site all day hauling kegs, moving ice, dumping slop buckets and generally insuring that the event went smoothly for brewers and visitors alike.

November 12th, 2012- Homebrew for Hunger - Chapel Hill, NC
I have been working hard since late summer, planning Homebrew for Hunger a fundraiser sponsored by Fifth Season benefiting the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina. More >>

Dissertation Art Project - PINT

In the course of researching and writing my dissertation, I found there to be a number of paths, back alleys, tangents, obsessions, and problem spaces to which I simply could not attend within the finite space of the research project. I decided to develop a series of mixed-media artwork, through which I can explore some of what my dissertation cannot take up due to limitations on length, time, and need for coherence…but perhaps more so because some stories are better told in the conceptual space of expressive creative work.


Creative Writing

As an undergraduate student in the English Department at Virginia Tech, I specialized in Creative Writing. I was the very grateful recipient of instruction and mentoring from a bevy of talented writers, poets, and critics including Nikki Giovanni, Lucinda Roy, Tom Gardener, Bonnie Soniat, and Jeff Mann.

The [Currently Untitled] Novel

Recently, I have returned to creative writing as an entertaining and surprisingly productive way to engage with the ideas that are at the center of my research. In the summer of 2014, I began writing a novel--a speculative fiction about a United States 250 years in the future. The book is a dark and fantastic response to the question, "what would our contry look like if current trends in our food system, media infrastructure, and social hierachies were allowed to evolve to thier (il)logial ends?"
pdfRead Chapter 1


Short Fiction

pdfTuto (coming soon)


pdfthreehundredsixty (coming soon)
pdfGiving it Back
(coming soon)


Rebuilds, Reclamations and Renovations...but mostly Bikes

The CX500 Project

In fall 2010 I bought a 1980 Honda CX500 with the intention of rebuilding it into a vintage cafe racer. The bike was bought without a tank or headlight, but with all other parts in tact.


Currently I am working on major elements of the body before I tackle the electrical and mechanical systems. The process has been slow--as I have to teach myself a set of new skills every time I have a chance to work on the project--but a ton of fun.

The "Hokiebird" Motorbike

I live about 3 or 4 miles from Piedmont Virginia Community College, where I work as an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies. This three miles makes for an extremely short commute to work. One so short that I feel pretty miserable about using my car to make the trip all the time. Three miles is, of course, not that far to bike. But if you have been to Charlottesville, you know we are nestled in some fair hilly/mountainous terrain. I decided that biking was the right idea, but that I would need the asstance of a little bit of horsepower. See more >>


Stuff Made of Bikes

Everyone has odd little indulgences, bad habits, guilty pleasures. I am happy to admit that I have several, but one of the more space intensive is my inability to pass up a free/cheep bike in any condition. Recently, I challenged myself to do something with the pile of bikes and bike parts mouldering in my basement. See more >>

made of bikes