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Congratulations are in order for Dorothy Jean Tillman II. The 17-year-old Arizona State University student graduated with her doctoral degree on May 6, earning a degree in integrated behavioral health, according to Good Morning America (GMA).

The extraordinary graduate embarked on her academic journey early, stepping into college at the tender age of 10 to pursue her associates in psychology. By the age of 13, she had already earned her Bachelor’s degree, and at 15, she secured a coveted spot in Arizona State University’s Doctorate of Behavioral Health Management program.

Hailing from Chicago, Tillman II credits her family, especially her grandmother, for instilling in her a deep passion for learning.

“People in my life like my grandmother, who was part of the Civil Rights movement, she of course harped on the importance of education and consistently learning something always,” Tillman II told GMA.

“But the way I always held education so high on my own, aside from being raised that way, was finding different things to be educated about.”

The 17-year-old graduate added, “I feel like that urge to learn something new just never didn’t exist for me.”

To fulfill the criteria for her doctoral degree, Tillman II authored a journal article as part of her dissertation and undertook an internship at the university student health center. There, she dedicated her efforts to effecting positive changes for fellow students.

Dr. Lesley Manson, a clinical associate professor at Arizona State University, highlighted that Tillman II’s project centered on enhancing “different forms of management to really reduce healthcare stigma and improve that student population there to be able to enter and accept student health services.” The passionate teen successfully presented her dissertation in December 2023 at Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions.

Manson told GMA that she was impressed to see Tillman II’s “innovative” work and described her as an “inquisitive” student. She noted that the bright teen was the youngest person in school history to earn a doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health.

“It’s a wonderful celebration … but this is still something so rare and unique,” she said. “She has innovative ideas and motivation, which is wonderful, and truly, I think what is inspiring is that she embodies that meaning of being a true leader.”

Tillman II’s endeavors to instigate change extended beyond student health services at Arizona State University. Alongside her role as a health advocate, she spearheaded a leadership program that she founded and led as CEO. This initiative uniquely emphasized the intersection of arts and STEM.

“I feel like adding art and putting a focus on it throughout science, technology, engineering and math makes the kids excited to learn all those things,” she said. “And it opens them up to all of the possibilities and all the knowledge provided in that area of just STEM.”

After her graduation ceremony, Tillman II took to the stage at Arizona State University’s Health Solutions Convocation event on May 8. Speaking passionately, she urged fellow students who shared her thirst for knowledge and desire for change to pursue their dreams and aspirations. A video capturing her inspiring speech was shared on her Instagram account on May 15.

“I am sharing with the hopes to inspire others across all generations to go for your dreams, lean into your village, and pivot when necessary. The world is yours,” the 17-year-old star wrote in the caption. 

Congratulations Dorothy Jean Tillman II!


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