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Teen prodigy Dorothy Jean Tillman earns doctoral degree at age 17

Dr. Dorothy Jean Tillman II

At the age of 17, Dorothy Jean Tillman, the nationally recognized teen prodigy from Chicago’s South Side, has achieved a remarkable milestone by successfully defending her dissertation to earn a doctoral degree in Integrated Behavioral Health (DBH) from Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions.

Expressing humility in the face of widespread inspiration for her achievement, Dr. Dorothy Jean Tillman looks forward to leveraging her expertise to further help youth and young adults through Integral Behavioral Health and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).

In her research, Dr. Tillman focused on the impact of implementing an outreach and education program to reduce the stigma associated with using campus mental health services among college-aged students. As part of her doctorate work, she completed over 240 hours of internship at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago’s Bronzeville community, collaborating closely with high-performance students to decrease stigmas associated with receiving services at the Student Health and Wellness Center.

Motivated by her own experiences as a student, Dr. Tillman plans to utilize her expertise in environmental and sustainable science (her focus of study toward a master’s degree completed at age 14) to make mental and behavioral health services more approachable for students within educational institutions and community-based organizations.

Founder and CEO of the DorothyJeanius STEAM Leadership Institute, Dr. Tillman launched DorothyJeanius STEAM Labs in Chicago and West Cape Town, South Africa, in 2020. Additionally, she was bestowed the title and name of Ankobea Ama Akuffo by His Royal Majesty Oseadeeyo Kwasi Akuffo III, the Omanhene of Akuapem, in Ghana. In this role, she serves as an official advisor on STEAM education and programs for youth.

Dr. Tillman’s higher education journey commenced at the age of 10 when she enrolled as a freshman at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, majoring in psychology. After completing her associate degree in 2016, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Humanities from Excelsior College in 2018. In 2020, she achieved another milestone by earning a Master of Science Degree from Unity College in Unity, Maine, becoming the youngest environmental and sustainable scientist in the country.

Acknowledged with numerous honors, awards, and recognitions including the Black Women’s Expo – Chicago 2022 Phenomenal Woman Award; a 2022 Diversity in Action magazine’s 20 Under 20 Next Gen STEAM leader; the 2021 Black Enterprise 40 Under 40 – Tech; and panelist at the 40 Under 40 Virtual Summit; the 2021 WVON 40 Under 40 Gamechangers, the 2019 Young Shining Star Award from the National Association of Black Elected Legislative Women; the 2019 Exelon African American Resource Alliance Achievement Award; and the 2018 Black Girls Rock – Who Rocks Next Award.

Dr. Tillman is set to participate in commencement activities on Monday, May 6, 2024, at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Her goal is to leverage her accomplishments and dedication to STEAM education and mental health advocacy to deliver lasting impact both nationally and internationally.

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