UNC sociologist named 'Genius Grant' recipient, receives $625,000 from MacArthur Foundation

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- A UNC sociologist has received the prestigious Genius Grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

Tressie McMillan Cottom is one of the 21 people making up the 2020 Class of recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship.

Informally known as the Genius Grant, the MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000 prize with no strings attached. The prize is awarded every year to people the foundation deems as "extraordinarily talented and creative." The grant touts itself as an investment in those individuals' potential, giving them a chance to "pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations."

McMillan Cottom's work has focused on shedding light on how American systems are not fair and equitable for all American citizens.

"In my work as a sociologist, I unpack what I call the metaphors of mobility. These are these ideas like the American Dream, equal opportunity," McMillan Cottom said. "I try to rewrite those metaphors in a way that sheds a light on just how unfair and unjust they are."

McMillan Cottom's recent publications include books Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy (2017) and THICK: And Other Essays (2019).

She has also written shorter works for various media outlets. She also launched the Black feminist podcast, Hear to Slay.
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