Alumna and Award-Winning Author Honored for Strides in Sociology

Posted April 23, 2020, 2:02PM
Tressie McMillan Cottom, Ph.D.

North Carolina Central University alumna Tressie McMillan Cottom, Ph.D., was recently honored for her many efforts in sociology. The American Sociological Association has honored McMillan Cottom with its 2020 Public Understanding of Sociology Award. The award is just one of many accolades she has been honored with since her humble beginnings at NCCU.

The award is given annually to an American Sociological Association member who has made significant contributions to advance the public understanding of sociology, sociological research and scholarship among the general public.

She was also a NCCU Forty Under Forty awardee in Sept. 2016.

“Being able to leverage strengths from different traditions, professions and disciplines is something is a skill that I learned and was able to master at NCCU that has shaped my career,” said McMillan Cottom.

McMillan Cottom earned a bachelor’s degree in English and political science from North Carolina Central University in 2009. She also has a doctorate in sociology from Emory University.

“There is nothing like the safety, love and foundation that you receive at a HBCU, that was very important to me,” said McMillan Cottom. “I value the core base NCCU provided me tremendously.”

Her work as a writer and researcher has been featured nationally on renowned media outlets including MSNBC, The New York Times and National Public Radio.

She has authored several scholarly articles, papers, literary works and books.

Most recently, she released the award-wining book “Thick: And Other Essays.” This work is a collection of essays on beauty, media, money and other topics.

In 2017, McMillan Cottom, authored novel, “Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise for For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy.”

In the narrative, McMillan Cottom examines higher education in the for-profit sector. She also explores the benefits, pitfalls and real costs of a for-profit education. McMillan Cottom discussed her new book as the featured guest on “The Daily Show” on March 8, 2017.

McMillan Cottom credits her foundation at NCCU with a profound understanding of higher education. 

“During my time at NCCU there was an understanding or excitement about interdisciplinary studies, NCCU had this long before interdisciplinary was a buzz-word, we really valued deep learning across colleges and schools,” said McMillan Cottom. “I continue to draw on that strength as it is my way of understanding the world and shapes my academic research, public scholarship and public engagement.”

She currently serves as associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and a faculty associate of the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

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