Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD is an associate professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina-Chapel HIll and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Information, Technology and Public Life (UNC). Professor Cottom’s research spans higher education, work, race, class, gender and digital societies. Lower Ed (2016) is her critically-acclaimed work on for-profit higher education and social inequality and THICK: And Other Essays (2019) was a non-fiction finalist for the National Book Awards. Among many other awards, she is the 2020 recipient of the American Sociological Association’s Sociology for Public Understanding of Sociology career award. She hosts a culture podcast with Roxane Gay, Hear to Slay, and lives in Chapel Hill, NC.
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 and developing the “Race, Space, and Place Initiative”, McMillan Cottom co-hosts the nationally distributed podcast “Hear to Slay” with Roxane Gay.
Dr. McMillan Cottom lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where she supports radically progressive local candidates for public office, community bail funds, and removing memorials to oppressive racist fictions.