Dana Henry seems to be as much explorer as she is athlete, having lived a life thus far that has been about expanding her personal limits, both on the volleyball court and off it.
Henry has been so successful in so many different venues of life, it is difficult to pigeon-hole the outgoing 21-year-old senior from Klamath Falls, Ore.
She will graduate on Saturday at Lawlor Events Center along with more than 1,400 other degree candidates during the Winter Commencement ceremony.
Let’s see. In no particular order, Henry is:
- A member of the Wolf Pack volleyball team for four seasons. She has moved up the ranks from hard-working walk-on to trusted veteran defensive specialist.
- The top graduating senior from the School of Medicine. She will have earned her degree in speech pathology and audiology in an impressive three and a half years (and actually, if it hadn’t been for her love of volleyball, she probably would have graduated in three years).
- A beauty queen, who has won several contests, including her reign in 2006 as Miss University of Nevada.
- A consummate citizen, who seems to embody every aspect of the words “student involvement.” She’s a former student government senator, as well as unrepentant volunteer and organizer, who served as chairperson for the University’s Relay for Life last year for the American Cancer Society. Her efforts helped raise in excess of $26,000.
- A role model. She has been a volunteer for the organization Big Brothers Big Sisters, which promotes and supports the development of one-on-one mentoring programs for children throughout the world. She visits her “little sister,” who is 10 years old and attends Sierra Vista Elementary School in Reno, at least once a week.
“The way I see it,” she says, with a smiling, infectious assurance, “if something is important to me, I’m going to find a way to do it, to get it done, and to get it done to the best of my abilities.”
This was a young woman who had followed an accelerated agenda almost from the very beginning of her life.
At age 2 she watched the Miss America pageant on television and told her mother, Janine, an elementary school counselor, that she wanted to be a “crown girl.”
The pages in the book of her life have been filled at warp-speed ever since.
It took her all of three years to graduate from high school. And by the time she reached the age of 16, she already knew that she wanted to be a doctor. A year earlier, to enhance that goal, she had learned American Sign Language (ASL).
“I looked into audiology, and it seemed like a natural fit,” she says. “I could be a doctor, with my own practice, with my own hours, and I would be able to use ASL to help the deaf community. It all just kind of clicked for me. And I knew all of that at 16.”
Her time in the classroom at Nevada has been rewarding, she says.
“I’m really going to remember the relationships I had with all of my professors,” she says, noting that in particular, her Senior Scholar mentor, Dr. Dennis Uken in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, has been at varying times counselor, confidante and colleague. “All of my professors have always been willing to talk to me, one-on-one, about any concerns or problems I had, whether it was in class, or for a project, or for life in general. Every professor I’ve had here has been so genuine and caring; not only about the student part, but the person part — who you are and how you are feeling.”
As she walks across the stage Saturday morning, she admits she will have many things on her mind.
The ever-focused, ever-goal-oriented part of her will probably have graduate school applications front and center. Her next goal is to earn her doctorate in clinical audiology. She’s applying to programs at the University of North Carolina, Northwestern, San Diego State and Western Michigan.
Henry says she will probably shed a few tears for the life’s passage the event represents.
“It’s the ending of a chapter in my life and the beginning of the next one,” she says. “I know I’m going to be crying, because I’m going to be so excited and so happy. When I walk across the stage, I’m going to do my best to clear my mind and soak it all in, and cherish the moment.
“Not everybody gets the chance to walk across the stage and graduate from college. I’m going to be thrilled to get my bachelor’s degree. I’m going to think, ‘I just turned 21 and I’m a college grad, and I’m going to be a doctor.’
“It’s going to be exciting.”