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"I was told I would never go to college because of my disability. In 2019, I graduated with a PhD"

Dr. Kaycee Bills is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Fayetteville State University, located in North Carolina. As a woman with a disability, her passion is to be a role model for other students and help them achieve their academic dreams. When Kaycee was younger she was told she would never go to college because of her disability but in 2019 she graduated with a PhD in Social Work from the University of Tennessee. In her personal life, she enjoys travelling and playing with her two Pitbull rescues.

Photos courtesy of Dr Kaycee Bills


1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background, where did you grow up?


I grew up in a small town that no one has heard of called Columbia City, Indiana. Although I lived in the middle of a small cornfield, I had big dreams. I attended the University of Saint Francis on a tennis scholarship and earned my Bachelor's in Social Work. I then moved across the ocean and attended Hawaii Pacific University for my Master's in Social Work. After that, I attended the University of Tennessee for my PhD in Social Work.


2. You've mentioned to us that your disability made school very difficult and many people told you, you were not cut for college - but your story is one of resilience - how did you find the strength to overcome those voices?


When you have a disability, you participate in what is called an Individualized Education Plan each year. Every year, I stated that my goal was to go to college and work with disabilities. However, every year they would remind me of my flaws and my underachievement compared to my peers. Something inside me just told me I was better than what was said in those meetings. I was a bit of a rebel, so I found strength by learning to be my own advocate. I slowly proved them wrong by taking baby steps toward my goals. It all started with a college application I was told not to send.


"I was a bit of a rebel, so I found strength by learning to be my own advocate. I slowly proved them wrong by taking baby steps toward my goals"