Tressie McMillan Cottom is an award-winning Associate Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and a faculty affiliate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society whose work has been recognized nationally and internationally for the urgency and depth of her incisive critical analysis of technology, higher education, class, race, and gender.
McMillan Cottom earned her doctorate from Emory University’s Laney Graduate School in sociology 2015. Her dissertation research formed the foundation for her first book Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy (The New Press 2016). Carol Anderson describes Lower Ed as “nuanced, carefully argued, and engagingly written” and “a powerful, chilling tale of what happens when profit-driven privatization of a public good latches on to systemic inequality and individual aspirations.”
With tens of thousands of readers amassed over years of writing and publishing, McMillan Cottom’s columns have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Dissent Magazine. She is also the author or co-editor of four books. Her most recent book, THICK: and Other Essays (The New Press 2019), is a critically acclaimed Amazon best-seller that situates Black women’s intellectual tradition at its center. THICK won the Brooklyn Public Library’s 2019 Literary Prize and is shortlisted for the 2019 National Book Award in nonfiction.
The New York Times writes that THICK is “sure to become a classic” and Dorothy Roberts compares reading it to “holding a mirror to your soul and to that of America.” As a writer, researcher and public intellectual, McMillan Cottom has appeared on Amanpour & Co., MSNBC, The Daily Show, and National Public Radio. Whether testifying before U.S. Senate Subcommittees on student loan debt, consulting with U.S. Senators or collaborating with leading progressive think tanks, McMillan Cottom brings rigor and craft to bear on wicked social problems.
Rebecca Traister has called McMillan Cottom one of “America’s most bracing thinkers on race, gender, and capitalism.” In addition to teaching U.S. racial relations, digital sociology and sociology of higher education at VCU and developing the University’s “Race, Space, and Place Initiative”, McMillan Cottom co-hosts the nationally distributed podcast “Hear to Slay” with Roxane Gay.
Tressie McMillan Cottom lives in Richmond, Virginia where she supports radically progressive local candidates for public office, the Richmond Community Bail Fund and removing memorials to oppressive racist fictions.