some of us are brave


 Tressie McMillan Cottom is completing her PhD in the Sociology Department at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. In Fall 2015 she joins the sociology faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University.

As a stratification scholar, Tressie considers what inequality means both experientially and empirically when corporations are people, supranational corporations like Facebook and Twitter shape the public square, and education is increasingly privatized. Her research primarily mines organizational arrangements and structural processes to better understand inequality across rapidly changing social domains. Her current work examines for-profit college credentials and inequality. She also has a developing research agenda that examines the political economy of emerging “new” media organizations. You can view her CV here and visit all published and pre-press publications here.


Tressie lectures and publishes widely.  She has been invited to speak on issues of education, race, gender, social movements and inequality at MIT, the Carter G. Woodson Institute at the University of Virginia, Duke, UGA, GSU, UC-Irvine as well as national and international public policy agencies in Canada, New Zealand and across the U.S.  Her public writing has appeared in Inside Higher Education, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Slate, Dissent Magazine, and The New York Times. Additionally, she has appeared on NPR and Dan Rather Reports.

Her academic work has appeared in ContextsWestJEM, and a textbook from Oxford University Press and the 8th edition of Race, Class and Gender, edited by Margaret L. Anderson and Patricia Hill Collins. Four papers are in various stages of  review: an organizational analysis of admissions at for-profit colleges (under review); an intersectional analysis of college choice among working class black and white women enrolled in for-profit colleges (submitted); inequality regimes and attention economies in academic engagement (submitted) and, the political economy of social media in identity movements (in preparation). Papers in progress include an examination of informal online learning and status groups on social media platforms and the post-racial ideology of Massive Open Online Courses.

In 2014, she was selected as a PhD Intern at the Microsoft Research Network’s Social Media Collective  in Cambridge, MA. That research project will examine how students use informal online spaces to form status identities and groups. The paper is currently being revised for publication.  She is also a former research fellow at the Center for Poverty Research at UC-Davis. As a fellow, she wrote a public policy brief (forthcoming) that examines the link between 1996 changes that purported to “end welfare as we know it” and the rise in for-profit workforce credentials among poor women.  She is honored to join the Barnard Center for Research on Women as an organizing consultant for their 40th anniversary Scholar & Feminist conference on gender and education.

With Sandy Darity of Duke University, she is the lead editor of “Profit U: The Rise of For-Profit Higher Education”, forthcoming from AERA books. A second book, a solo-authored manuscript on inequality and for-profit higher education, is under contract with The New Press. So far, her editors have not decided to kick her out of the fold.

Tressie considers teaching a foundational research activity. She teaches introductory sociology courses and has developed seminars in contemporary stratification (post-Great Recession), critical university studies, and technology and inequality. Her students seem to enjoy her pedagogical enthusiasm. To be fair, students do occasionally complain that she threatens to incorporate interpretative dance into lectures. Tressie thinks they doth protest too much.

She can be found at and @tressiemcphd.


16 comments on “About

  1. Pingback: Jonathan D. Becker, J.D., Ph.D. – Hiring a network

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  3. Peter Freedman-Doan
    September 5, 2014

    I’ve been reading for about 6 months now. I got here by way of Elijah Anderson, Alice Goffman, and trying to think about the hows and whys and consequences of incarceration. I love the blog. I’m an old fella. I don’t Twitter. Sometimes I can follow neither the social science references to authors and ideas nor the social networking twitter stuff. Nevertheless, still love what I read here. Thanks much. I’m an old dog (soon to be 60) who loves to at least see new tricks.

  4. Pingback: Inequality Regimes and Student Experience in Online Learning: Tressie McMillan Cottom at Berkman | Grabber

  5. nikkiskies
    June 8, 2014

    This is my new favorite site! A critical mind, a beautiful mind…and I thank you.

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  8. pennynewell
    February 19, 2014

    Dear Tressie,

    Thanks for these blog posts – I love the stuff about engaging as academics by working in lateral ways and across lots of platforms, and having versatile ideas.

    I am getting in touch with a question. Basically, I am co-creating an event at King’s College London, entitled, ‘Research with Reach: Valuing ideas beyond the academe’. The project has been devised to look at what we think of as a ‘third space’ between academia and mainstream arts writing – that is, exactly the space you examine here.

    Myself and my co-convenor Ella Parry-Davies have just read your blog, and wondered if you might have contacts for the UK who are thinking/blogging/working in similar ways? We unfortunately don’t have a huge budget from our funders, otherwise we’d be contacting you offering to fly you across!

    The conference will be an opportunity for a cohort of some of the brightest emerging arts and humanities thinkers in London to benefit from the perspective and expertise of professionals such as yourself.

    We’d love your input and ideas! And thanks again for this fascinating read! You can find links to me through twitter, wordpress etc etc here:


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  10. lindaleea
    February 9, 2014

    Look at Full Sail… great example of marketing to and accepting students (with loans) .

  11. Pingback: Conditionally Accepted | Toward A Self-Defined Activist-Academic Career In Sociology

  12. Nisha Vida
    November 7, 2013

    you are amazing!!!

  13. Kaethe
    October 30, 2013

    I got here from John Scalzi. I’m just loving all your posts. Thanks for introducing me to “swirling”.

  14. Pingback: Insanely Well-Capitalized Nonprofit Institution Closes Non-Revenue-Generating Core Divisions « Gerry Canavan

  15. Walter Hamilton
    May 1, 2012

    I’m a reporter at the LA Times writing about student loans. I loved your tweet. I want to interview you for my story. Please get in touch at

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