Chicago teenager Dr. Dorothy Jean Tillman II has made history by earning her doctorate from Arizona State University (ASU) at just 17 years old. Tillman shared her achievement on Instagram, noting that she began her college journey at the age of 10.

In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Tillman described her accomplishment as “surreal” and “full of reflection and inspiration.” In 2020, she earned a Master of Science degree, and by 15, she had entered the Doctorate of Behavioral Health Management program at ASU. At 17, she successfully defended her dissertation, earning her doctoral degree in Integrated Behavioral Health from ASU’s College of Health Solutions.

Tillman, now 18, celebrated her achievement during ASU’s spring commencement on May 6, 2024, attending the ceremony in person. Reflecting on her journey, she said, “Everything we were doing didn’t seem abnormal to me or out of the ordinary until it started getting all of the attention.”


She credits her academic success to the guidance of her grandmother and her mother’s advice. Leslie Manson, the associate professor who supervised Tillman’s dissertation, noted that Tillman is the youngest person to complete a doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health at ASU. “She has innovative ideas and motivation, which is wonderful, and truly, I think what is inspiring is that she embodies the meaning of being a true leader,” Manson said.

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Tillman plans to continue reflecting on her goals while also focusing on her other interests, including public speaking and a leadership institute she founded. “I’m really just grateful that the world is my oyster, and that I’ve done so much so young. And I have time to kind of think that through,” she said. Despite her academic focus, Tillman has also found time for dancing and choreography.

She is the founder and CEO of the Dorothyjeanius STEAM Leadership Institute, which offers summer camps to help young people in the arts and STEM subjects. Tillman aims to expand the camp and engage in public speaking and fundraising activities to support it.

Manson praised Tillman’s leadership and innovative spirit, adding, “She embodies the meaning of being a true leader.”