Tanya Schmidt entered Harker in third grade. By the time she graduated from Harker’s upper school in 2008, she had left a lasting impression on her teachers and, as a passionate student and athlete, a legacy for Harker. Throughout her life, Schmidt has exhibited a love for academics, while balancing the drive to excel in competitive team sports and give back to the community. On Oct. 5, 2018, Schmidt was named an inaugural member of the Harker Athletic Hall of Fame.
A four-year starter on Harker’s varsity girls volleyball team, Schmidt was named a four-time All-West Bay Athletic League First Team honoree and a two-time West Bay Athletic League MVP. Her junior year, Schmidt was named a Top 50 Junior Recruit in the nation. By her senior year, Schmidt was an unstoppable force on the Harker volleyball team.
During her senior season in 2007, Schmidt led the girls volleyball team into Harker history with a series of firsts for the school. As the first Harker team to compete in the Central Coast Section championship final, the team continued to make history by winning the Division IV NorCal Championship in Sacramento. In December 2007, the team played in the state championships in front of a home crowd of more than 1,500 Harker fans at San Jose State University, where Schmidt was named California Division IV State MVP.
Earlier, in November 2007, Schmidt became the first Harker student-athlete ever to sign a national letter of intent to play National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I sports. Schmidt paid homage to head coach Theresa Smith: “Coach Smitty was very influential over all four years in my development as an athlete and as a leader. Even though I’ve received a lot of personal recognition, our team couldn’t have achieved what we did without her.”
Also in December 2007, Schmidt was named to the San Jose Mercury News First Team for girls volleyball, with a season total of 643 kills, 94 blocks, 428 digs and 52 aces, leading the Harker team to a season record of 39-5. Her season total of 643 kills was more than 200 kills higher than the next attacker named to the seven-person all-star team from other Bay Area high schools. After the school season ended, Schmidt played on the Vision Volleyball 18 Gold club team and won the bronze medal in the open division of the 2008 Junior Olympics.
Among other accolades, Schmidt was honored as a 2007 Cal-Hi Sports Scholar Athlete, a PrepVolleyball.com All-American and Academic All-American. At Harker, she was the 2007-08 Athlete of the Year, Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and recipient of the Head of School Award.
During her time at Harker, in addition to sports, Schmidt actively participated in many of the rich academic and community programs. She was named a National Merit Finalist and an AP Scholar with Honor and was inducted into the Spanish National Honor Society. Schmidt served as president of a service club and section editor for the monthly newspaper, among other activities. She was also named Homecoming Queen.
Having attracted numerous offers of college scholarships from programs across the country, Schmidt selected Santa Clara University primarily because it offered a combination of her principal interests: academics, a demanding sports regime and plenty of community service opportunities.
On the volleyball court, Schmidt was a key player and a four-year starter as a middle blocker on a full NCAA Division 1 athletic scholarship. The story can be told in the many accolades she received at SCU:
2008: Her first season at SCU, Schmidt started in every match and was named to the West Coast Conference All-Freshman Team. She tied her season-high 12 kills against then-No. 16 Kansas State, contributing to her team’s upset win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
2009: Schmidt was team leader in hits with a season average of .329 and led in total blocks at 97. In a match against Cal Poly, Schmidt scored nine kills to earn a season-high .818 hitting percentage.
2010: Schmidt was named to the All-West Coast Conference First Team and voted Offensive MVP for SCU, carrying the team’s highest hitting percentage for a season average of .338. Against Idaho, she hit .516, earning 17 kills, four blocks, and five digs. She hit .750 tallying 12 kills with three blocks and two digs against CSU Bakersfield.
2010 and 2011: Schmidt was named to the WCC All-Academic team, carrying the highest GPA in the whole conference. In 2010 and 2011, Schmidt was also named to the ESPN.com CoSIDA Academic All-District Team, the only player from the West Coast Conference to make the list two years in a row.
2011: Schmidt was team captain and voted Most Inspirational Player by her teammates. She set her season high record of hitting .727 with 17 kills and four blocks in the match vs. Utah Valley. She was one of 30 volleyball players selected across the nation for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award for excellence in competition, classroom, character and community.
Schmidt served as the women’s volleyball representative for Santa Clara University’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and also as Santa Clara University’s female student-athlete representative for the West Coast Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Volleyball was only one piece of Schmidt’s life at SCU. She thrived in academia and, in 2011, was named a regional finalist to interview for a Rhodes Scholarship. Schmidt participated in the Santa Clara University Honors Program all four years, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, and graduated SCU summa cum laude with a 3.97 GPA, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in Classical Studies and Religious Studies.
For each of these fields of study, Schmidt was inducted into their respective honor societies: Sigma Tau Delta (International English Honor Society), Eta Sigma Phi (National Classical Honor Society) and Theta Alpha Kappa (National Honor Society of Religious Studies and Theology). She served for two years as president of the Sigma Tau Delta chapter at Santa Clara University, and she also served as vice president of the SCU chapter of Alpha Sigma Nu (Honors Society of Jesuit schools). Schmidt was SCU’s selected female representative invited to take part in the Path to Peace Foundation’s annual weeklong conference co-sponsored by the United Nations. She taught English in Peru as a Jean Donovan Fellow and won the Doelger Scholar Grant and Canterbury Fellowship to support her work on various research projects.
In 2012, she won the Phi Beta Kappa David Logothetti Award for academic excellence and also the Carroll Williams Award, given to the one senior who “best defines what it means to be a Santa Clara student-athlete” on the court, in the classroom and in the community. The NCAA also noted Tanya’s well-rounded athleticism, leadership and character, honoring her as one of the Top 30 Finalists for the Woman of the Year award, selected from a total of 150,000 graduating female student-athletes from all three NCAA divisions in the country.
Schmidt was selected to address her graduating class at SCU’s 2012 Commencement Liturgy. On graduation day, she was awarded the Saint Clare Medal, which recognizes a student who embodies the university’s ideals of “competence, conscience and compassion,” “given to the female graduate judged outstanding in academic performance, personal character, school activities and constructive contribution to the university by the faculty and the provost.”
For the next two years, Schmidt played professional volleyball in Europe. She played her first season for Oxyjeunes Sodraep Farciennes in Belgium. She helped her team achieve an undefeated record of 14-0 in the matches played after her arrival. A translator helped a local television network to interview Schmidt after several home games, but by the end of the season, Schmidt achieved her goal of giving a post-game interview by herself in French, which she was learning while living there. Her team won the 2013 championship title of the N1 League.
For her second season, Schmidt chose to sign a contract with Volleyball Club Offenburg in Germany, where she was a starter for the entire nine-month long season. She was named the team’s MVP at five out of the eight matches where the award was given. After a win against a Frankfurt-based team, the Offenburger Tageblatt newspaper reported, “Out of a strong Offenburg team, one very special player stands out: the 22-year old U.S.-American Tanya Schmidt, who became the best player in the VCO-jersey and gives the team a lot of security with her sovereignty and vision in her attacks, especially in tight moments.” During her free time, Schmidt learned German and was an assistant English teacher at a college preparatory high school.
Schmidt then moved to New York, where she earned a master’s degree in English and American Literature from New York University. Schmidt received numerous postgraduate scholarships, including the West Coast Conference Postgraduate Scholarship, the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, a MENSA Scholarship and prestigious NYU awards from the Graduate School of Arts and Science and from the English department, including the Charles Wickham Moore Scholarship. She has spoken at multiple scholarly conferences and has received research funding from various scholarly organizations, including the Northeast Modern Language Association and the Folger Institute, to name a few.
In New York, Schmidt also has served as the president of the New York chapter of the Santa Clara University Alumni Association and, as of April 2015, was the youngest alum invited to become an SCU Illuminate Blog Thought Leader. Awarded a MacCracken Doctoral Fellowship, Schmidt has entered NYU’s Ph.D. program in English. In 2016 Schmidt wrote and delivered an oration in Latin to welcome the inauguration of NYU’s 16th university president, and in 2018, Schmidt became the first upper school graduate invited to give the keynote speech at Harker’s graduation. She advised the graduates not to be afraid of unexpected changes: “Have the courage to be curious, and make space to listen to yourself!”