Dan O'Hair is dean of the University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information. He is the author of Real Communication, 3e, A Speaker's Guidebook, 6e, and A Pocket Guide to Public Speaking, 5e.
Q: What advice do you give your students who have public speaking anxiety or general communication apprehension?
DO: I have students take slow, deep breaths just before speaking. I also encourage them to become completely familiar with their introduction so that they can start off very well prepared.
Q: What has been your favorite course to teach and why?
DO: I love teaching public speaking because it gives me a chance to watch the dramatic improvement in student’s speaking skills over the course of the semester. I also enjoy teaching interpersonal communication—the content is interesting and relevant to just about everything we do in life.
Q: What advice do you have for other instructors who teach this course?
DO: Most instructors I have talked with think it is a really good idea to respect students for where they are in the first few days of class. Some will be more confident and accomplished than others. Being flexible with varying degrees of skills goes a long toward building trust with students.
Q: What are some of your research interests?
DO: I have studied how communication can be improved in hurricane warnings. I have conducted a great deal of research on how physicians and patients can communication with one another more effectively.
Q: If you could create (and teach) a brand new course for your department, what would it be?
DO: I am very interested in communication technology and social media, so I plan to develop and teach courses in those areas.
Q: What do you think is one of the biggest challenges students face now when they enter college?
DO: First, financial costs are the biggest challenges I hear from students. Second, sometimes students have not developed the same expectations as their instructors. This is an issue that can be worked out with better communication.
Q: What motivates you to continue teaching?
DO: I love my students; I love trying to make them laugh, and I love to challenge them to think differently.
On a personal note...
Q: How do you spend your time when you're not teaching?
DO: I love playing golf, although I wish I was much better at it. And, I love being with my family and especially my 2-year old granddaughter who never fails to challenge me.
Q: What are some of your hobbies?
DO: Reading, golf.
Q: If you hadn't pursued a career in higher education, what career path do you think you would have chosen?
Q: What was the last book you read?
DO: A historical biography about Hitler as a youth.
Q: What book has influenced you most?
DO: The books written by Carlos Castaneda about Native American mysticism.
Q: Where is one place you want to travel to, but have never been?
DO: Spain and Italy.
Q: When you sit down to listen to music, which artists or genres do you go to most?
DO: Classic rock; jazz. My favorite group is Rush.
Q: What is something you want to learn in the next year (Communication-related or otherwise)?
DO: How can I become wiser.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you (i.e. What's your "fun fact")?
DO: I was an Eagle Scout at age 13. Scouting was about the only thing I lived and breathed back then.