Jason Arday has fulfilled a goal that once seemed unattainable: he is now a professor at the esteemed Cambridge University in England.

The 37-year-old professor of sociology of education, who was diagnosed with global development delay and autistic spectrum disorder as a child, didn’t learn to read or write until he was 18 and didn’t learn to speak until he was 11 years old.
Arday was similarly informed less than eight years ago that he would require assisted living and lifelong support as an adult, but the native of Clapham, south London, wasn’t backing down. One day he scrawled a list of objectives on the wall of his mother’s bedroom, one of which was “One day I will work at Oxford or Cambridge.”

The professor, who was “violently rejected” when he first tried to teach in higher education, now works at the No. 2 university in the world and is the youngest black professor there.

Even though I like to be positive, there’s no way I could have imagined that would have happened. The odds were quite long, if I were a gambler. It’s just crazy,” Arday said on Friday to The Times. “I had no idea what I was doing when I first began writing academic articles. No one ever taught me how to write, and I had no mentor. I received a harsh rejection for everything I submitted.

Arday revealed to The Times that he used sign language after receiving an early diagnosis. Despite this, he finally obtained a PhD from Liverpool John Moores University, two master’s degrees and a postgraduate diploma in education to work as a PE instructor.

Sandro Sandi, a friend and mentor, then gave him some much-needed support to pursue a career in academics. He told Arday, “I think you can achieve this,” according to The Times. “I believe we can defeat the entire globe.”

Many academics claim to have fallen into their line of work by accident, but Arday told The Times, “I was motivated and focused from that moment on – I knew that this would be my goal. “In consideration, I meant to do this,”

After getting positions at two universities in England and publishing his first paper in 2018, Arday became one of the youngest professors in the U.K. when he accepted a position at the School of Education at the University of Glasgow. He plans on beginning classes at Cambridge University on March 6.

According to Arday, who has written about under-representation and racial discrimination in education, “my work focuses mostly on how we can open doors to more people from disadvantaged backgrounds and truly democratize higher education,” The Times reported. “Maybe being in a place like Cambridge will give me the clout to spearhead that agenda domestically and internationally.”