Cashlyn English: 'One percent motivation, 99 percent discipline'

By Hank McIntire

Cashlyn EnglishCashlyn English, Wood research assistant at the UVU Center for Constututional Studies, competes at the  Great American Stampede rodeo in Cedar City Aug. 9, 2022. Photo by Jay Drowns.

Peewee Champion

The six-year-old girl stood on the awards platform, decked out in her Western shirt, jeans, big belt buckle, cowboy hat, and boots.

The breeze, kicking up Nevada dust on Winnemucca’s rodeo grounds, had its way with the blonde strands that hung below her hat. With one hand she brushed back her hair from her face, and with the other she shook the hand of a smiling, tall man she had never met. He presented her with a new saddle as the prize for winning her first all-around title in rodeo—the Peewee category.

That vivid memory sticks with Cashlyn English, a Wood research assistant at the Center for Constitutional Studies (CCS) at Utah Valley University. Her journey from her family’s ranch near Reno, Nevada, to UVU has been quite a ride.

Winning the Family Lottery

“I roped and rode since I could walk,” said Cashlyn. “When I got older my routine was to

get up at 5:30 a.m., feed the horses, commute an hour each way to school, practice roping, feed the horses again, do three hours of homework, then get up the next morning and do it all again.”

“Born and raised into it, I didn’t have a choice,” she said. But Cashlyn came to love that busy world. Mom and Dad had more than a dozen horses on their place and ran a small herd of corriente cattle, bred for rodeo. Cashlyn, her older sister Carlee and younger brother Cole all pitched in. “We are super tight. I won the lottery with my family.”

Mom Koleen is a hair stylist, Dad Curtis is a police officer in nearby Sparks and is also a world champion in the 8½ bracket in the American Cowboy Team Roping Association circuit. Drawing on that experience, on the side he flips horses. That’s not a typo; he buys horses and retrains them with a rodeo-related skill and then sells them to someone who needs an animal with that new expertise. “It’s like flipping houses,” Cashlyn explained. “You buy them cheap, fix them up, and sell them for more.”

Getting Noticed in the Classroom and in the Saddle

It doesn’t take long to see that nothing is conventional about Cashlyn. In lieu of a high-school diploma she earned an international baccalaureate (IB) through a worldwide program in 160 countries that teaches students to think critically, drive their own learning, and be more culturally aware.

Wooster High School in Reno offered the IB program, where Cashlyn took classes about 30 miles from home. “High school was way harder than college,” she recalled. “IB was AP credits on steroids, and my weighted GPA was 5.6 on a 4.0 scale.”

At the same time she continued to compete in roping and barrel racing. With 26 high-school rodeos a year, Cashlyn spent a lot of time in a truck pulling a horse trailer all over Nevada and surrounding states. “All I did was drive and rope,” she said.

At one such rodeo in Ogden, Utah, she had a particularly good performance. UVU rodeo coach Shane Draper was there and was impressed. He came up to her afterward and asked, “What are your college plans?” “As soon as I told him my GPA he said, ‘I don’t care what it takes, we gotta have you,’” Cashlyn remembered.

By then she had a rodeo scholarship waiting for her at Texas A&M, but UVU’s offer was much more attractive. “They took all my credits, let me do rodeo, and it’s only an eight-hour drive from home,” Cashlyn said. “It checked all the boxes for me.”

On the UVU Rodeo Team

At UVU, Cashlyn competes on the rodeo team in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. The season consists of 11 rodeos in the Idaho, Colorado, and Utah region. Half are held in the fall and half in the spring. Unlike most college amateurs, winners at a rodeo get prize money. She uses two to four of her own horses from home, and it’s not cheap to haul them around. “The money is nice, but the winnings never cover your expenses,” she said.

Now in her second year on the UVU team, her preferred events are breakaway roping—a calf is roped but not thrown or tied—and team roping, where one rider, the header, ropes the horns, while the other, the heeler (Cashlyn), lassoes the hind hooves. When asked which is her favorite, “It’s a very tight tie between the two,” she said.

School and Work

As for her studies at UVU, her high-school preparation and college credit spared her many of the classes that are normally part of the freshman and sophomore years. “I didn’t have to take any generals because of my IB program,” said Cashlyn. That allowed her to dive right into major classes in Philosophy and her minors in Political Science and Constitutional Studies.

A 2019 class in political theory, taught by Andrew Bibby, associate director of CCS, opened a new door for Cashlyn. “It was online, but the midterm and final exams were in a verbal Q&A format,” she said. “Dr. Bibby loved my answers. He said, ‘The way your brain works, and how fast you can process texts, you would be great on the Quill Project.’”

Bibby sent Scott Paul, director of CCS, to talk to Cashlyn about being a Wood research assistant, named for Eric Zachary Wood, deceased son of Angela and Bryan Wood, who fund the stipends that students receive from employment at the Center.

Student-researchers like Cashlyn work on the Quill Project, which focuses on digitizing records from constitutional conventions of the United States and the 50 individual states. She started on the Illinois team, combing through archives of that state’s constitutional convention of 1970. Quickly becoming a team lead, she then co-supervised six other researchers on other constitutional conventions—Washington, Idaho, and Montana—on a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The work can be tedious, Cashlyn said, but it reveals something about those who labored and compromised to create the founding documents of states. “There is only so much you can read about water rights,” she mused. “But we get to geek out about something some old men said in 1889. There is humanity in those texts.”

Shaping and Being Shaped

Her dad always told her, “Motivation will be there one percent of the time, but you get things done by being disciplined.” Cashlyn has shown that she listened, managing her time to get the most out of every day, whether at home, with rodeo, or in the Center.

Cashlyn’s quick pace also shows up in her rapid-fire conversational style, getting three times as many words in as most people do in one breath. “I can do a lot of things at a high level all at once,” she said. “You just do it.”

“Growing up in a Western culture, getting up at 5:30 a.m. and working hard, it gave me a routine,” she continued. “I’m a big goal-setter—both short- and long-term. I have purple sticky-note affirmations on the window in my apartment. I don’t get B’s, and that goes for everything. But it does make dating difficult,” she admitted with a smile.

Cashlyn brings that passion to her work at CCS. “I like to manage and know what’s happening on the projects,” she said, currently leading 14 researchers on the Quill Project. “I make sure our work is quality.”

She tells new team members of the impact of their work and the mindset they need to bring to the table. “You should have a passion for the U.S. Constitution, and there isn’t a place you can go to look at state constitutions,” Cashlyn said. “We are doing this work so that lawyers and judges have that information. You are an undergraduate doing Oxford-level work.”

Doing Something Bigger

Cashlyn could have graduated a year ago, but she wanted complete her extra minor in Constitutional Studies and do rodeo for one more year. After graduating, she wants to earn a JD/PhD combination. When asked where she will do graduate/law school, she responded, “Harvard or Yale, of course. I want to be a judge someday.”

Serving on the judicial bench will fit right in with what drives Cashlyn to excel at the Center—a love of the U.S. Constitution. “It’s the most important document; every single citizen should know about it. It’s so fundamental, and it affects everything we do in day-to-day life.”

“I try to talk to as many people as I can about it,” she added. “I give away pocket Constitutions. People need to have respect for it.”

But Cashlyn gives greatest credit to her roots, upbringing, and being in the saddle. “Since I won that first rodeo as a little girl, I knew I could do something bigger,” she said. “I can be the person I am here because of rodeo and growing up on a ranch. You find a way and just do it.”