Nov. 12, 2019

Class of 2019: Top squash player sets sights on law career

Andrew Schnell aims to stand up for justice and inclusivity, making the world a better place

A few days after Andrew Schnell defended his Master of Science thesis on LGBTQ2S+ inclusion in sport, he hopped on a plane to Lima, Peru, where he won two medals in squash at the Pan-American Games. 

He’s no stranger to winning. Schnell has been on the road and touring the world as a top squash player during most of his studies at UCalgary, even as he’s gathered academic achievements.

Within the past four years, he’s received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) MSc award, has been a member of the prestigious Scholars Academy, and has begun his first year at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law. He’ll soon cross the convocation stage for his MSc in Kinesiology, merging his passions for sports and human rights.

The two-time Canadian national squash champion and Pan Am Games gold medallist now has his sights set on helping others by practising law.

“From an early age, I’ve had a strong personal sense of justice,” says Schnell. “I have a Christian background and I want to do what I can to raise other people up. I’ve been bestowed with certain talents and gifts and if I did not use them to help others, I would be acting irresponsibly.”

Andrew Schnell playing squash

Andrew Schnell's MSc topic focused on LGBTQ2S+ inclusion in sport.

Courtesy Andrew Schnell

Schnell founded the charity InspiredBySport which aims to use the power of sport to connect with children from an Indigenous community. He and his brother, Graeme, who has been an integral part of Andrew’s sports training and was also a top squash player, have both been involved with the charity organization Right To Play. Together, they raised more than $3,500 in support of children in need.

Shining a light on sports to transform communities

Dr. William Bridel, PhD, in the Faculty of Kinesiology supervised Schnell for his MSc thesis, along with Dr. Jenny Godley, PhD, in the Department of Sociology in the Faculty of Arts. Schnell‘s MSc thesis examined intergroup contact and LGBTQ2S+ inclusion in figure skating.

“With the nature of the topic, I felt I had an opportunity as a straight white guy to become an ally of the LGBTQ2S+ community,” says Schnell.

The work that he produced in his MSc thesis has provided valuable academic insights on LGBTQ2S+ inclusion in sport, says Bridel. “These insights will also, however, be incredibly useful to Skate Canada, the national sport organization we worked with on this project.”

Andrew Schnell

Andrew Schnell played professional squash while continuing his education at UCalgary.

Courtesy Andrew Schnell

Schnell developed a strong work ethic early in his life and sharpened it when he began to compete seriously in squash from the age of 12 in Calgary. His ability to focus on goals and achieve them helped propel him to the top of the squash rosters and bolstered his academic work.

“His incredible discipline, focus, and work ethic allowed him to complete his MSc in less than two years while still producing high-quality work,” says Bridel.

Harvard, Princeton and Yale were among the universities that came calling to Schnell. UCalgary offered him flexibility for his ambition to compete professionally in squash, he says, and the mentorship he received in the Scholars Academy was a key factor in his decision to pursue a law education at UCalgary rather than elsewhere.

The Scholars Academy extends the potential of undergraduate students with exceptional leadership abilities, intellectual curiosity and strong commitments to local and global communities.

Schnell considers himself fortunate to have worked with sports psychologists, trainers and coaches at UCalgary and his scientific approach to squash has been a perfect fit with the university.

“From a purely athletic training perspective, the UCalgary kinesiology program is one of the best in the world,” he says. “It allowed me to do purposeful, objective, performance-based training.”

Schnell will not play squash professionally while he pursues his law studies. He’ll continue to strive toward his long-term goals of helping others and making the world a better place.

“I grew up in Calgary and this is my home,” says Schnell. “I spoke to a ton of lawyers after I received acceptance to a number of universities and they said if you want to practise law in Calgary, stay in Calgary. That’s what I’m doing.”

When he attends convocation, he’ll be doing so within a family tradition. Schnell’s parents, brother, two sisters and even his fiancé have all attended UCalgary and they’ll be there to cheer him on.