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PhD at 17: US teenager Dorothy Jean Tillman II hits academic milestone in record time

In 2020, Tillman obtained a Master of Science degree, and a year later, at 15, she was accepted into Arizona State University’s Doctorate of Behavioral Health Management program.

Dorothy Jean Tillman II [Instagram]

Dorothy Jean Tillman II expressed her excitement about this extraordinary milestone, calling the graduation week “surreal” and “full of reflection and inspiration” in an Instagram post.

Tillman, who was homeschooled early on, started college at age 10, as she shared in an interview with “Good Morning America.”

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In 2020, Tillman obtained a Master of Science degree, and a year later, at 15, she was accepted into Arizona State University’s Doctorate of Behavioral Health Management program.

At the remarkably young age of 17, Dorothy Jean Tillman II achieved a feat that is truly exceptional. In December 2023, she successfully defended her dissertation, earning her doctorate in integrated behavioural health from ASU’s College of Health Solutions.

The culmination of Dorothy Jean Tillman II’s academic journey was celebrated at ASU’s spring commencement on May 6, 2024. She proudly attended the ceremony with her fellow graduates, marking the end of a remarkable chapter in her life.

In an interview with the Associated Press (AP), she said, “Everything that we were doing didn’t seem abnormal to me or out of the ordinary until it started getting all of the attention.”

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Tillman credits her academic achievements and educational journey to her grandmother’s support and confidence in her mother’s guidance.

Leslie Manson, the associate professor who oversaw Tillman’s dissertation at ASU’s online program, noted that Tillman is the youngest individual to earn a doctoral degree in integrated behavioural health from ASU.

Mason said, “It’s a wonderful celebration … but this is still something so rare and unique.

“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.”

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