Black Voices

Meet the 17-Year-Old Chicagoan Who Just Earned Her Doctorate Degree


Meet the 17-Year-Old Chicagoan Who Just Earned Her Doctorate Degree

Most 17-year-olds are excited about finishing high school and possibly thinking about college. But Bronzeville teen Dorothy Jean Tillman is in a class all by herself. A typical teen in some ways, she also happens to have just earned her doctorate degree.

Homeschooled by her mother, Tillman began her higher education journey at 10 when she enrolled as a freshman at the College of Lake County. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College at 12 and her master’s degree from Unity College in Maine at 14.

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“Having your own choice to go at whatever pace you would like definitely gave me a lot more control and definitely made me enjoy education a lot more,” Tillman said.

And she just defended her dissertation to earn a doctorate in integrated behavioral health from Arizona State University. Her research focused on the outcomes of school-based mental health programs.

Tillman credits her mother with her academic success. “Just having my mom there and having that support is what made it even possible to do this in the first place.”

If Tillman’s name sounds familiar, that’s because she’s the granddaughter of former 3rd Ward Ald. Dorothy Tillman.

“It was wonderful having a trailblazer like that in my home sharing her knowledge, getting to wake up and see my Granny at the kitchen table talking about what was going on or teaching me a significant lesson,” the 17-year-old Tillman said.

Tillman sat down with “Chicago Tonight: Black Voices” to share her plans for the future.


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