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Tressie McMillan Cottom

Associate Professor, UNC School of Information and Library Science; Senior Faculty Researcher, Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life

Tressie McMillan Cottom




(919) 962-8366
Tressie McMillan Cottom


Technology, higher education, class, race, and gender.


PhD (Sociology), Emory University
BA (English and Political Science), North Carolina Central University


Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom is an award-winning author, professor, and sociologist, whose work has earned national and international recognition for the urgency and depth of its incisive critical analysis of technology, higher education, class, race, and gender. Her most recent accolades include being named the 2023 winner of the Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize by Brandeis University for her “critical perspective and analysis of some of the greatest social challenges we face today.” She is a senior research professor with the Center for Information, Technology and Public Life at UNC-Chapel Hill, a New York Times columnist, and 2020 MacArthur Fellow. In 2023, McMillan Cottom ranked in the top 200 education scholars in the nation on Education Week’s “2023 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings,” an annual list published by American Enterprise Institute director of education policy studies and Education Week blogger Frederick M. Hess.

McMillan Cottom earned her doctorate from Emory University’s Laney Graduate School in sociology in 2015. Her dissertation research formed the foundation for her first book Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy.

McMillan Cottom’s most recent book, THICK: And Other Essays, 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 was shortlisted for the 2019 National Book Award in nonfiction.


MacArthur Foundation Fellow (2020)
Public Understanding of Sociology Award, American Sociological Association (2020)
National Book Award, Non-fiction Finalist for Thick: And Other Essays (2019)
Brooklyn Public Library Literary Award, Non-fiction Winner for Thick: And Other Essays (2019)
Virginia Commonwealth University, Outstanding Early Career Faculty Award (2018)
Feminist Activist Scholar Award, Sociologists for Women in Society (2017)
PhD Research Intern, Microsoft Social Sciences Research Labs, Cambridge, Mass. (2014)


McMillan Cottom, Tressie. 2019. THICK: And Other Essays. New York: The New Press.
McMillan Cottom, Tressie. 2016. Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profits. New York: The New Press.