Provost's Discovery Themes Lecturer Program: Tressie McMillan Cottom

Photo of Tressie McMillan Cottom


Tressie McMillan Cottom is an award-winning author, researcher, educator, and cultural critic 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.

The foundation for McMillan Cottom's first book, Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, was formed by dissertation research for her doctorate from Emory University's Laney Graduate School. In Lower Ed, she questions the fundamental narrative of American education policy.

In 2019, McMillan Cottom released Thick: and Other Essays. The collection has been described as “essential,” and the Chicago Tribune calls her, “the author you need to read now.”Thick was the winner of the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize and was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award.

She was recently named a 2020 MacArthur Fellow.

McMillan Cottom serves on dozens of academic and philanthropic boards and publishes widely on issues of inequality, work, higher education and technology. She 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). McMillan Cottom also co-hosts Hear to Slay with Roxane Gay, a podcast with an intersectional perspective on celebrity, culture, politics, art, life, love, and more.

McMillan Cottom lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where she supports radically progressive local candidates for public office, the Richmond Community Bail Fund, and removing memorials to oppressive racist fictions.


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