Child prodigy Dorothy Jean Tillman finishes degree at Unity College through Distance Education

Like any student pursuing a master’s degree, Dorothy Jean Tillman wanted to visit Unity College’s campus, even though she’s earning her degree through the College’s Distance Education program. And, like any student, when she made the trek to Maine with her family, she toured the facility, chatted in person with the staff she had gotten to know online, and even got to meet Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury

But Dorothy Jean, who resides in Chicago’s South Side, isn’t just any student. She is a 13-year-old prodigy who earned her bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College in New York, and is now completing her Master’s in Environmental Science and Sustainability from Unity College. 

“I believe I was put here to help people,” Dorothy said while talking with Dr. Khoury. “And the path I’m going down, I could see so many ways I can use the resources and connections I have now to help people.”

And Dorothy has plenty of resources and connections. Not only has she made frequent appearances on Chicago newscasts, she was also recently spotlighted at the BET Awards, and had an article about her on Vibe Magazine’s website after she received her bachelor’s degree. 

“Dorothy Jean’s story is unique and inspiring, and we were thrilled when she decided that, of all the master’s programs she could have enrolled in, she chose Unity College,” said Dr. Khoury. “It is my hope that she continues to spread the message about sustainability science not only to her friends and peers in Chicago, but also to those all around the world who are taking note of the work she has put into her education.” 

“They just made learning so approachable,” Dorothy Jean said of the online faculty. “One thing for me is I like to control my own schedule, and the schedule that works for me may not work for somebody else.”

“Distance Education has opened up so many doors for us as an institution, and for students all over the world,” said Unity College’s Vice President of Distance Education Dr. Amy Arnett. “Now, we can not only reach people wherever they are, but whenever they’re ready to take that next step in their education, whether they’re 13 years old or 113.” 

Although she is a prodigy, Dorothy Jean is also still a 13-year-old, enjoying social media, painting, photography, and hanging out with her friends. She even mixes her art with her love of the environment. 

“For me, it’s like taking two things you love and putting them together,” she said. “It’s like putting macaroni on pizza, or putting peanut butter and jelly together.”

Education, however, remains her priority. While she does want to take a little time off after earning her master’s before moving into a PhD program, Dorothy Jean’s idea of “time off” isn’t just kicking back and resting on her laurels. Instead, she hopes to travel a bit and continue to study the environment while she does so.

To see Dorothy Jean’s interview with Dr. Khoury when she first visited the College in 2018, watch the video below!