C. Scott Wyatt, Visiting Assistant Professor, Carnegie-Mellon University
Faculty and students see a professor teaching business communication at a leading research university. Business clients see a technology entrepreneur and consultant. The arts community sees a produced playwright and creative writer. My family and friends, however, know that what I am today is a part of a continuing journey through and around physical and cognitive challenges towards professional success. At this moment, I am a visiting assistant professor of business communications at Carnegie Mellon University. My research interests include the rhetoric of special needs and accommodation, with attention to public policy and economics. I also serve on the board of directors of the Autism Connection of PA. With Dr. Andrew Gordon at the University of Southern California, I am studying autism and self-identity in virtual spaces following the publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Before pursuing my doctorate, I worked in the real estate financial industry and was an entrepreneur. A former high school instructor and I launched a computer consulting business in 1987. Since that time, I’ve been a business partner in a computer store, a bookstore, and other small businesses. I am also a produced playwright, with my shows A New Death, The Gospel Singer, and Women Say… premiering in 2014 at different Pittsburgh theaters.
I was born in Visalia, California, in 1968. My arrival was not routine. I was a Franklin breech delivery, with arms behind my head. The physician resorted to using forceps. Delivery resulted in brachial plexus injuries, spine trauma, cranial fracture, temporal lobe damage, left arm broken, and right side paralysis, which lasted nine months. I still have partial paralysis and atrophy of the right arm from Erb’s Palsy. I had to wear a back brace for scoliosis for five years during middle school and high school and have had physical therapy throughout my life. Though they were told I would be cognitively impaired for life, my parents don’t tolerate giving up or making excuses. You can always ask others for help, and that isn’t the same as giving up. Maybe I am not the youngest person to earn a doctorate, but I did earn it — with the support of many people. Imaging reveals specific left frontal and temporal lobe injury…. Characteristics of high-functioning autism, resulting from the brain trauma, are apparent. - 2006 medical review My transition to higher education was not easy. I attended six different colleges along the way, encountering physical and social barriers to success. I withdrew from three of the colleges, struggling to find the acceptance and support necessary for academic success. Education, essential to success in our economy, is also one of the least accessible and tolerant spaces in our society. I succeeded because my friends and family offered the supports others did not. The completion of my master’s degree was possible because I found a great mentor who helped me navigate the social and political environment of a large state university. It’s often one mentor that makes the difference between success and failure. While living in Minnesota, I required eye surgery for base membrane dystrophy. The partial loss of vision during my last year of study added to the normal challenges of completing a doctoral degree. Yet, my wife was there to help me make deadlines and prepare for the courses I taught.
Success is built on the acceptance, mentoring, and direct assistance provided by others in our lives. And in return, our kindness and support contributes to personal success.