FSU professor with autism shares journey of graduating with PhD in social work despite naysayers

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- For most of Dr. Kaycee Bills' life, she's been met with challenges and naysayers.

"I got bullied all the time. My teachers told my parents, every year, at my IEP meetings, that college was not a goal for me. It just wasn't going to happen, maybe she should find a trade," Bills said.

Dr. Bills tells Eyewitness News that she was diagnosed with autism. This led her to need her space in the classroom when it came to learning, many times having to work on schoolwork by herself.

Despite the words of doubt, in 2014, Dr. Bills packed her bags and left her town, in Indiana, to attend Hawaii Pacific University. There, she, with the help of professors, realized her potential and wasn't satisfied with just a Bachelor's or Master's degree in social work.

"They really saw that I had a gift of research and talked me into a PhD," Bills explained.

After applying and being rejected from several PhD programs, the University of Tennessee called Dr. Bills, offering her a full ride to pursue a Doctorates in social work.

In 2016, Dr. Bills continued her education career in Knoxville, Tennessee. Then, three years later, "I got a PhD, which is something that I never dreamed of. And now, working at an HBCU, I work with a lot of students who are just like me."

Now, Dr. Bills is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Fayetteville State University. With this position, Dr. Bills tells ABC11 that she's determined to help others who are on the spectrum.

"I know there are other kids out there who have the same battle, who have the same issue of people saying, 'you have a disability, you're not going to achieve this,' and I want to be that voice that I never had," Bills said.


Words of encouragement and mentorship that Dr. Bills hopes will inspire others to tap into their true potential. The same young girl from Indiana, who was once scared of being in a large classroom, is now preparing lectures and leading classes.

"Haha, I do see the irony in this, I do," Bills said.
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