Teen earns doctorate from Arizona State and credits 'village of support'

What were you doing at 17? Hanging out with friends? Maybe getting ready for the prom? Well, one Arizona teenager earned her doctorate at 17 at Arizona State University.

Moments before Dorothy Jean Tillman, also known as D, walked in her graduation, she spoke to FOX 10 about what it took to get a doctorate at such a young age.

"I just feel lucky to have been able to make it this far, to be able to have a village of support to get this far," Tillman said. "Lucky to be able to stay so dedicated."

Tillman was home schooled, earned a bachelor's degree at 11, a master’s degree at 14 and now has a doctorate in behavioral health at 17 years old.

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Dorothy Jean Tillman at her 2024 Arizona State University graduation ceremony.

She's not done learning yet.

"Learning more about the world around me, learning more things and fields and spaces and things I can do in the field of behavioral health, just researching, learning and exploring," she said.

Dr. Lesley Manson at the college of health solutions knows she'll be a success.

"Most people never knew she was so young. They actually really welcomed her and, because of her intelligence and her responses being so mature, no one noticed how young she was," Dr. Manson said.

As a teenager, Tillman started a STEAM camp called the Dorothy Jeanius STEAM Leadership Institute, working with other teens in South Africa and Chicago, where she was raised.

"To bridge the gap between arts and STEM, because I felt there's a lot of points where they intersect. Somebody should be shining a light on that and shining a light on the arts in engineering arts that come with math. I wanted to make my camp that place and that place where we teach kids to be leaders," Tillman explained.

Despite speaking at her graduation and being a teenage doctor, she's still just a kid and is excited for prom in a week.

"I just can't wait to wear my sparkly dress, beautiful shoes and enjoy time with my friends," she said.

Congrats, D!