Sagebrushers podcast: Tales from The Wolf Pack Way

President Brian Sandoval hosts the new podcast from the University of Nevada, Reno, launching on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more March 29

Dr. Cheryl Hug-English (left), President Brian Sandoval (right) and Nevada Today Editor Karl Fendelander (center back)

Dr. Cheryl Hug-English (left), President Brian Sandoval (right) and Nevada Today Editor Karl Fendelander (center back)

Sagebrushers podcast: Tales from The Wolf Pack Way

President Brian Sandoval hosts the new podcast from the University of Nevada, Reno, launching on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more March 29

Dr. Cheryl Hug-English (left), President Brian Sandoval (right) and Nevada Today Editor Karl Fendelander (center back)

Dr. Cheryl Hug-English (left), President Brian Sandoval (right) and Nevada Today Editor Karl Fendelander (center back)

Dr. Cheryl Hug-English (left), President Brian Sandoval (right) and Nevada Today Editor Karl Fendelander (center back)

Sagebrushers podcast identifier with a sketch of a sagebrush in the background
Sagebrushers is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other major platforms

Endearingly titled “Sagebrushers” after the University of Nevada, Reno’s first nickname, the newly launched podcast is hosted by President Brian Sandoval and promises to bring listeners down the footpaths, through the research labs and beyond the classrooms of the University with stories from members of our Wolf Pack Family. Sagebrushers will be available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other major podcast platforms starting March 29, with a new episode every month.

“Throughout our 148-year history, our University has always had an authentic, inspiring and compelling story to tell – one that with the passing of each season becomes even more memorable and part of a larger history that speaks to each and every one of us,” University President and Sagebrushers Host Brian Sandoval said.

Each month, subscribers will hear the stories behind the people, events and history of the University and get a window into the lives of people who truly exemplify The Wolf Pack Way.

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Sagebrushers – Ep. 1 – Dr. Cheryl Hug-English

Listen to learn about Dr. Hug-English's family history, time at the University, leadership throughout the ongoing pandemic and the resultant poetry, and more.

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The podcast’s inaugural episode features Director of the Student Health Center Dr. Cheryl Hug-English, who’s held that position since 1994 and graduated from the University twice (once with a bachelor’s in biology and four years later with a medical degree). Dr. Hug-English’s connections to the Wolf Pack stretch well past her own status as an alumna and current faculty member, starting from her alumni grandparents, running through to her own alumni children and even including a handful of campus love stories in between.

“I think it's important to recognize that that this campus forms connections,” Hug-English said. “That, not only is it a wonderful place for learning and academic and professional growth, but … there is a connectivity that this University fosters, and it allows for relationships and friendships to really blossom.”

Over the course of this first episode, Sandoval and Hug-English discuss family, personal history, the “profoundly challenging times” brought about by COVID-19, as well as Hug-English’s “wonderful and inspiring” pandemic poetry.

“I'm not sure that we could have asked for a better start to the series,” Sandoval said.


Listen & subscribe to Sagebrushers

Each month, subscribers will hear the stories behind the people, events and history of the University and get a window into the lives of people who truly exemplify The Wolf Pack Way.

President Brian Sandoval:
Welcome to Sagebrushers, the podcast of the University of Nevada, Reno. I'm Brian Sandoval. I'm a proud graduate and president of the University of Nevada, Reno, and I'm your host of Sagebrushers. Each month at Sagebrushers, which by the way was our university's first nickname, we take a closer look at the people, history and future of our beloved University. We explain why the University, ever since its founding in Elko in 1874, has been about so much more than ourselves, why we remain Nevada's best experiment in understanding who we are and what we are capable of achieving.

Today's podcast is being recorded at the Reynolds School of Journalism on our University's campus. In this inaugural episode of Sagebrushers we are so happy to welcome our first ever guest, Dr. Cheryl Hug-English, medical director of the University's Student Health Center.

I want to chat a little bit about Dr. Hug-English. She received her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1978 and graduated from the University of Nevada School of Medicine in 1982. She and her husband Harry, also a University and University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine alum, went to Los Angeles for residency training, always with the intention of returning to Reno. While in Los Angeles Dr. Hug-English received her master's of public health and epidemiology from UCLA.

She began her career in college health at our University in 1988 and became medical director of our Student Health Center in 1994. She has also served in various roles at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. She served as assistant dean of admissions from 1994 to 2003, associate dean of admissions and student affairs from 2003 to 2008, and interim dean for the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine from 2010 to 2011. She currently serves as a board member for the American College Health Association, and is a member of the American College Health Association COVID-19 task force.

Very impressive and very excited to have you here. Welcome, Dr. Hug-English


Dr. Cheryl Hug-English:
Thank you so much, President Sandoval, and I'm really honored to be here for this inaugural podcast.


President Brian Sandoval:
And we're really pleased that you're here. So I do have some questions for you. First, you have quite a family history with our University. All three of your children are fourth-generation members of the Wolf Pack. Talk to us a little bit about this.


Dr. Cheryl Hug-English:
I am so very proud of that family legacy with the Wolf Pack family. And it really began with my grandparents. Proctor and Margaret Hug, who both graduated from UNR.

My grandfather went on to become student body president, and he also played football for UNR. He earned the nickname 'Bunny' because he was so fast, and even though he was about five feet six, he was very successful. And that nickname carried through for the rest of his life.

They had three children. All three of their children, including my father, attended and graduated from UNR. My father, also Proctor Hug, was also student body president and participated in track and field and ran the hurdles for UNR. He met – well, he knew my mom, but they began dating during their time at UNR. And when he was student body president, my mom was student body secretary, and my dad would later say that the best part of that job was being able to work with my mom.

So they married soon after graduation. My dad later became general counsel for the University and later served on the Board of Regents and as Chair of the Board of Regents, my mom and dad had three children and two of the three of us graduated from UNR.

And I met my husband and began dating him while at UNR. And as was mentioned, we both went on to the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. We have three children, and I'm incredibly proud to say that they also have graduated from UNR.

My son Christopher graduated with a degree in philosophy and then went to get two masters, one in education and one in business from UNR. Our middle daughter, Ashley, graduated with a degree in psychology and a math and music minor, and later went on to get a master's in vocal performance at NYU. And our youngest daughter, Alicia, graduated with a degree in public health. So there's a lot of us, as well as aunts and uncles and cousins that have all had the wonderful opportunity of attending and graduating from this great University.


President Brian Sandoval:
Now that's incredibly impressive. I don't know if there's a more connected family in terms of, you know, the broad attendance to a university – I'd love to meet them – but what a legacy and I love the nickname 'Bunny' you mentioned. Bet there's some good stories about his performance on the football field.

So let's talk a little bit about your experience as a student at the University. What are some of your fondest memories while you were here?


Dr. Cheryl Hug-English:
Gosh, I have so many fond memories of my time here. I think, you know, while our campus has definitely changed and grown a lot, there's a lot that is still the same.

I remember as a student, walking on the quad, enjoying the beauty of the quad. I remember lots of hours spent in in then what was perceived to be a really innovative library, Getchell Library. I remember doing research in the library with actual books and having to type papers on a typewriter – that really dates me.

But I also, you know, most importantly, remember the people. I remember the friendships that were developed. Lots of intellectual growth and learning. But probably the most powerful memory for me is meeting and falling in love with my future husband, Harry, in our pre-med classes at UNR. And the social athletic events – all of it, I think, you know, combined to just be a wonderful college experience.

Harry and I were also just – we were able to share our love of medicine and passion for medicine and shared the excitement of both being able to continue on going to the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. He's a little older than I am, so he started a year before I did, but we got married after my second year of medical school – the week after I took step one of the boards and the day after he took his surgery final. So it was a bit of a wild time.

But you know, just lots and lots of very fond memories. I'll also share one other kind of special memory to me: the week that I found out that I had been accepted to the School of Medicine was also the same week that my father found out that he had been appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And so we shared that memory for years later. And we would both talk about the trajectory that both of our careers took in that same week. So that's another special memory.


President Brian Sandoval:
That's a great story and, you know, profound respect for your father. He was a mentor to me. and so I'm always grateful for that. And I just love the story about your parents, and how you both met your mates for life right on this campus.


Dr. Cheryl Hug-English:
And you know, it goes beyond that. My grandparents, my parents, my husband and I, my brother and his wife. And my son met his wife here, as well. So I think it's important to recognize that that this campus forms connections. That, not only is it a wonderful place for learning and academic and professional growth, but you know, there is a connectivity that this University fosters, and it allows for relationships and friendships to really blossom.


President Brian Sandoval:
Now that's the epitome of the Wolf Pack family. And really, it puts meaning into that. So let's fast forward a little bit. You obviously have this very important role on on campus, and we have been engaged in probably what could be one of the most difficult times in in our University's history, associated with the challenges of COVID. And, you know, we're all very proud of our students, faculty, staff and the level of resiliency that that they've shown, but will you talk a little bit about your journey over the past two years and what your experiences have been?


Dr. Cheryl Hug-English:
You know, I think you summed it up perfectly: that this has been a profoundly challenging time for all of us in different ways for everybody.

I think as part of the Student Health Center, it's been particularly challenging for my staff, and I cannot say enough about how each one of them has stepped up. We've been open the entire time. I think that each one of them has taken on responsibilities that really were not in their job descriptions. We've had to adapt to not only providing the the usual health care that we would want to provide for our campus, but have also had to pivot to how we respond to the campus needs for COVID assessment, COVID testing, COVID vaccination and contact tracing. All of those were additional responsibilities that we had to adapt to very quickly, and have really continued on until the current moment.

It's been a lot of challenges. But as the rest of our campus has done, I think every one of my staff has stepped forward. I think, you know, one of my beliefs – and I do credit my parents for this – is the belief in optimism and hope and the power that that brings. I like this quote that "If you're looking down, you're never going to see a rainbow." I think it was originally said by Charlie Chaplin. But I've thought a lot about that during this time, because there's been a lot that has been, you know, really heavy and difficult news. I think our campus has been able to hold together, and I think part of being part of a Pack means taking care of one another. And I think that's what I've seen with our campus as a whole.

It's certainly what I've seen with my staff in how they have stepped up to care for our campus. And I'm proud of that. I'm proud of each one of them and the work that they've done.


President Brian Sandoval:
If anyone has been in on the frontlines of this, it's been you, and you have treated and counseled 1000s of students, literally, and I know I'm profoundly grateful for your service. Is there a message that you would like to share with with our students and faculty and staff in terms of what we're going through and what the future looks like?


Dr. Cheryl Hug-English:
You know, I think that that we have been through an incredibly difficult time. It's been two years. I think we initially thought in 2020 that maybe this would be six months, maybe nine months, and really, we're looking at a two year period of time. I think that, you know, what I'd like to say is, is again, that message of hope: that we've all held together and supported one another through this time.

I think some of the silver linings for this time have been that we've adopted and figured out ways to do things differently that we didn't even know we could, that we have supported one another in ways and connected with one another in ways that we didn't know that we could.

I have a really hopeful message for everybody: I think we have been through the worst of this.

I think what we're seeing is case numbers coming down. I think we're seeing even nationally and internationally sort of a shift in this pandemic. I don't think it's gone. It has not magically disappeared. But I do think we have the tools that we didn't have a year ago. We have ability to test – not only going someplace to get tested, but home testing. We have, you know, great access to vaccines and great access to personal protective equipment like masks that at the beginning of this pandemic we did not have.

The other thing that I guess I would say, and I guess this is the scientist in me, but I look at where we were in February of 2020, when the very first case was identified in the United States. By the end of March, our country was really on lockdown. And we were making decisions for you know, remote work and remote learning. But also, within a period of very few months, we had developed testing, we had developed the ability and availability to get people tested. By December of that year, we had not one but three very powerful, very effective vaccines available.

Scientifically, if you look back in history, that just doesn't happen, and it doesn't mean that shortcuts were taken. It truly means that the resources and the intensity of money and support for it was given because the world came to recognize this was a huge issue.


President Brian Sandoval:
It truly is remarkable and literally a miracle of modern medicine. You think about where we were only a year ago. And I think at that time, we were just beginning the vaccination, and now it's broadly available, and people are better off for that. So what's your view of campus as we speak now?


Dr. Cheryl Hug-English:
I think one of the things we've learned is that this virus is kind of a shapeshifter. There's been lots of iterations and changes, and that we while we need to sort of go forward with still not taking our eye off the ball, so to speak, that we really are in a much different position than we were a year ago, even a semester ago.
We saw this latest surge with the Omicron variant, which was very intense, very fast. But we've also seen, and this was modeled and predicted, that as fast as it went up, the cases also started to decrease. And I think that's why some of the recent decisions have been made to kind of liberalize the masking policy. It does not mean in any way that we're not still having the tools to deal with this virus, but that we have those tools now, and we've used them.

I think one of the other things that our campus should be incredibly proud of, is that we have over 98% of our faculty vaccinated and almost 87 to 88% of our students vaccinated. So our campus has stepped forward and recognized the importance of that as a tool to help combat this virus.


President Brian Sandoval:
No, it's incredible. And we are indeed proud of everyone on our campus.

I'm going to change subjects a little bit and ask you about your poetry. I really enjoy the poetry, but I think it's a side of you that's incredibly creative, if you want to chat about that.


Dr. Cheryl Hug-English:
Well, thank you for saying that. I have to say that I think "poetry" is probably generous. I think that that anybody in the English department is probably cringing, but I think it was helpful to me to write them. Honestly, it was really designed, in sharing it with campus, to kind of give, you know, some hopeful message or a message that we're all kind of in this together as a Wolf Pack family. And I think it's sort of helped me sort of process through the different phases of this. Initially, you know, the first poem I wrote is very different than the last, and I think that we are in a very different phase, but it has been fun to share them with campus. And I appreciate you saying that.


President Brian Sandoval:
I think you ought to publish them. I think they're wonderful and inspiring and bring a smile to someone's face – to my face – even when you're having a difficult day. It's deeply meaningful, and I'm grateful for that.

So we're almost out of time, is there anything else that you want to talk about or any closing remarks that you'd like to make?


Dr. Cheryl Hug-English:
You know, I guess I just like to close by saying, history kind of shows us what we've learned and where we've been, and the future shows us what's possible. I feel like our campus, our University really is a great melding of both of those things. I'm incredibly grateful that our family has been able to benefit from this University, professionally, educationally and personally. I hope that that legacy can continue for generations to come.


President Brian Sandoval:
Well, Cheryl, thank you. And I like to say when you're in the middle of history, you don't realize you're making it, and I think that you've made history, and you've made like people's lives better. People are going to look back at this time and be grateful that you were on this campus and the service that you provided to so many people, and I'm grateful for you.


Dr. Cheryl Hug-English:
Thank you so much, President Sandoval.


President Brian Sandoval:
So, unfortunately, that is all the time we have for our very first episode of Sagebrushers I'm not sure that we could have asked for a better start to the series. And thank you for joining us today, Dr. Hug-English. And thank you for all that you've done for our University, especially over the last few years of facing this pandemic. You truly do exemplify the Wolf Pack Way.

Next month, we will bring you another episode of Sagebrushers and continue to tell the stories that make our University special and unique. Until then, I'm University President Brian Sandoval, and go Pack!

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