Illinois Teen Earns Doctoral Degree At 17

Dorothy Jean Tillman II, a teenager from Chicago, has recently made headlines for achieving an extraordinary academic milestone by earning her doctoral degree at the age of 17. Her remarkable journey was shared on “Good Morning America,” where she revealed that she was homeschooled in her early years before embarking on her college education at the tender age of 10. In 2020, she completed her Master of Science degree, and just a year later, at 15, she was accepted into the Doctorate of Behavioral Health Management program at Arizona State University.

In December 2023, at the age of 17, Tillman successfully defended her dissertation, marking the culmination of her doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health from ASU’s College of Health Solutions. Her hard work and dedication were celebrated as she walked at ASU’s spring commencement ceremony on May 6.

Tillman attributed her deep appreciation for education to her family’s background and the influential figures in her life, particularly her grandmother, who played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights movement. She expressed her relentless drive for learning and her firm belief in the power of education.

Dr. Lesley Manson, a clinical associate professor at ASU, commended Tillman as the youngest individual in the school’s history to earn a doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health. Manson highlighted Tillman’s exceptional contributions, including her journal article based on her dissertation and her impactful internship at a university student health center, where she worked to reduce healthcare stigma and enhance access to student health services.

Tillman’s innovative and inquisitive nature stood out to Manson, who emphasized the rarity and uniqueness of her accomplishments. Manson’s hope is that Tillman’s love of learning will continue to inspire others, as she embodies the true essence of leadership.

A major source of motivation for Tillman has been her mother, whom she described as a tireless role model for upholding their family’s legacy. In addition to her academic pursuits, Tillman is the founder and CEO of a leadership institute that promotes the arts and STEM, aiming to spark excitement and curiosity in young learners.

Looking ahead, Tillman expressed her gratitude for her achievements at a young age and her eagerness to explore her future dreams and goals. She hopes that her journey will encourage others to embrace the process of self-discovery and decision-making in their lives.

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