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Meet Cortlan Wickliff of Driven to Succeed – Academic Tour of Texas in South Houston

November 27, 2019
Voyage Houston

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cortlan Wickliff.

Cortlan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?

When I was 14 years old, I was accepted into college; five years later, I graduated from Rice University with a Bioengineering degree, which made me the youngest engineer in the nation at that time. Three years later, at 22 years old, I became one of the youngest African Americans to ever graduate from Harvard Law School. I followed up that degree with a Ph.D. in Engineering from Texas A&M University.

Along with my historic academic journey, I also had an impressive professional journey. I became the youngest licensed attorney in the state of Texas at 23 years old. I have been a researcher, in-house counsel, and a business consultant. Currently, I am the Associate Vice Provost of Academic Affairs at Rice University, a practicing attorney and motivational speaker. I attribute my success to the people who took time to deposit their wisdom, guidance and encouragement in me, and I believe that it is all of our responsibility to pay it forward.

To that end, I wanted to find a way to pay it forward to the next generation. As a Millennial, I am uniquely positioned to be relatable to today’s students. I wanted to use that relatability to reach students and encourage other young people to be similarly motivated to pursue their passions. From that desire, was born the idea for the Driven to Succeed: Academic Tour of Texas. So I took four weeks off from work to drive 4,500+ miles around the entire state of Texas to speak to students about college & success after graduation. This tour will take me to 20+ cities around the state and involve 50+ stops. This is my attempt to provide some of the same guidance and motivation that helped me succeed. In addition to the speeches that I will be giving at these Texas area middle schools, high schools, and college students, I will also be giving away copies of my book Young And Driven: Overdrive to provide additional guidance and tips for success.

I hope that I can both motivate young people to pursue their passion, and inspire my peers to find creative ways to give back to their communities.

Has it been a smooth road?

There is no way to undertake a major-statewide endeavor without challenges. In addition to the logistical concerns and organizing travel and scheduling 3-4 events on a daily basis, there is the challenge of finding funding. At this point, most of the tour is being funded out of my own money.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Driven to Succeed – Academic Tour of Texas – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.

This Driven to Succeed initiative is geared towards improving the lives and outcomes of students. It is something that has already gotten a lot of traction in the state of Texas and will be expanding to other states in 2020. This is set apart because it is a Millennial led initiative that is seeking to have a statewide impact.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?

Houston is a supportive city with a lot of talent. My family has been a part of the fabric of Houston for multiple generations, and I honestly could not think of a place I would rather call home. There is a significant pool of young leaders that are starting to come into their own, and I hope that I can inspire more of my peers to prioritize serving our communities.


  • Young And Driven: Overdrive (paperback) – 19.90

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