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Aug. 31, 2016

Scott Haeck: Defying odds

 Aug. 31, 2016

Student Scott Haeck trying on suits in a storeDon’t dare tell accounting junior Scott Haeck that he can’t attend a four-year college. Don’t dare tell him he can’t thrive in one of the Broad College of Business’ most competitive academic units. Don’t dare tell him that he can’t navigate Michigan State University’s campus from his motorized wheelchair in the brutal winter months.

Don’t dare tell him he can’t overcome every possible odd: chasing his dream to study abroad in Scotland at the University of St. Andrews for Broad’s “Business in Scotland” program, during which students partake in the “Using Golf in Business” class on the United Kingdom’s competitive courses.

“I heard that, as of last year, there were about 64 students on campus with my sort of disability, out of a student body of nearly 50,000. This trip quickly shaped up to be my single greatest challenge,” Haeck said. But he’s never shied away from challenges and didn’t plan to start with this trip, which included 26 other Broad students.

Surrounded by classmates, Haeck conquered his greatest challenge: stepping outside of his comfort zone.

For many of those students, the greatest hassle in preparing for the international trip was waiting in line to get a passport picture taken. Haeck, as high-functioning autistic and in an electric wheelchair, found getting a passport to be the least of his planning concerns.

“I had to make sure everything was worked out to an exhausting degree, in order – my departure, arrival, and stay, which includes coordinating several outside services to coincide with one another so that I could land, collect my rental handicap equipment, and depart via prearranged transit in quick succession,” he said.

And whereas many students would feel frustrated by TSA’s long lines or layovers, Haeck’s entire trip depended on travel plans unfolding seamlessly. “I’ve never gone near this far, and always by land with family and my own equipment. I hadn’t flown since I was young enough to be carried, and common travel annoyances to some people literally threaten the carefully planned and scheduled accommodations I am using to compensate for my inabilities and inexperience,” he explained.

Haeck had custom golf clubs made that allowed him to participate on the course from his chair.

As an honors student, Haeck wasn’t concerned about the academic aspect of the trip. Rather, he feared stepping outside of a personal comfort zone to inspire others. “With my disabilities, I tend to keep to myself. But it’s time to fight that and connect with people – more of a challenge than it sounds for me. I’d also like to provide a positive example. If I can pull this trip off, perhaps others can chase experiences they once wrote off as impossible,” he said.

As for future plans once he returns to Broad to continue his academic journey, Haeck is committed to maintaining his academic performance through a master’s program and law school, and to getting more involved. Last year, he had a business suit made to fit his posture, so is ready for any professional or Broad event that comes his way.

Haeck’s outlook is to boldly put one foot in front of the other – all from his wheelchair. “I’ve had challenges throughout life, but so have we all. Much as it is difficult, I can’t picture my life without dreaming of bigger things, securer finances and advanced degrees. It has always been my philosophy that whatever hand we’ve been dealt, the objective in this life is to play it as best we can and do as much, for ourselves and the wider world, as we are able during our time.”


Reprinted with permission from the Eli Broad College of Business

Written by Caroline Brooks