He tames wild butterflies

Daniel Henry has a mission to help students overcome their fear of public speaking.

“All speakers are somewhat shy. I still get nervous before I speak, and I have been doing this for years,” said Henry, speech professor and assistant coach of the Seawolf Speech and Debate Team.

Henry has been involved in speech nearly all of his life. He had his first public speaking experience at age11 when he appeared on a talk radio show in Oregon.

Henry had taken a hike in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area close to his home. When he returned, he tuned into a radio station and heard a debate concerning a senator's plan to develop the area into a pumice mine. The idea disturbed Henry, so he called the station to debate the senator. He soon realized the senator didn't care about his opinion.

“From that point, part of my mission became to help people's voices be heard,” Henry said. Now he's doing just that at UAA.

Chanille Newsome, a justice and communications major and a member of the speech and debate team, says Henry is a great addition to the coaching staff.

“He's friendly and has a personal relationship that connects to us well,” she said. “He has a lot to offer in speech composition and debate understanding.”

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Henry attended the University of Oregon on a speech scholarship, worked as a graduate assistant with Susan Galser, Ph.D, who has a specialty in situational speech anxiety, and started the speech program in Haines, where he taught for 13 years.

While working as a graduate assistant at the University of Oregon, the communications department identified the shyest students on campus. Twenty students were chosen to take the speech class.

“The opening day of class 20 students were sitting in the back of the large lecture hall, looking straight down, afraid to talk to one another,” Henry said. “These were the top-20 shyest students at the University of Oregon.”

By the end of the semester these shy people could speak and wanted to speak, Henry said. He describes the situation as similar to religious conversion.

From the experience he had with students who suffered situational speech anxiety, commonly known as stage fright, Henry now loves to hear students speak out.

“Nervousness is part of being a human being. Being nervous is good,” he said. “Students have the capacity to speak out whenever they are moved to speak. Silence and holding your tongue is good, sometimes I want students to do that, but I want students to use power to put their action out there.”

Henry's advice: “Feel strongly about being heard, and face the fears and dive in. Learn to make your butterflies fly in formation.”