Portrait of Tressie McMillan Cottom

A Conversation with Tressie McMillan Cottom

Event Details

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

6:00 pm

Student Union Ballroom


Online registration or tickets


Wes DeShano

Communications and Marketing, College of Education



Tressie McMillan Cottom will visit campus on March 29 to give a talk on higher education. Cottom is an acclaimed cultural critic, MacArthur Fellow, sociologist, author, professor, and podcaster. Registration for this event is encouraged but not required.


Speaker Bio:

Cottom is known for rearranging your brain in the span of a carefully-turned phrase. Her breadth is phenomenal – it moves from the racial hierarchy of beauty standards and the class codes of dressing for work to the predation of for-profit colleges and the stain of racial capitalism on our plural democracy – all while reimagining the essay form for the 21st century as she goes.

Professor Cottom’s first book, Lower Ed, captures the zeitgeist on how profit, and debt, moved from the margins of higher education to bankrupt the very heart of American meritocracy. Influential change-makers like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and activists like The Debt Strike Collective cite her book as important for changing the conversation about higher education. Her sharp insights do not let anyone off the hook – she argues that bad federal policy, state disinvestment, amoral narratives about meritocracy, and prestige-driven cultures of traditional higher education all share responsibility for LowerEd.

Tressie McMillan Cottom is a professor with the Center for Information, Technology and Public Life at UNC-Chapel Hill, a New York Times columnist, and 2020 MacArthur Fellow.