Heather McGhee, Author of Best-Selling The Sum of Us, Joins CUNY SLU Faculty

Heather McGhee, Author of Best-Selling The Sum of Us, Joins CUNY SLU Faculty


Heather McGhee – social justice advocate, news media commentator, and best-selling author – will join SLU’s faculty in January 2022 as Distinguished Lecturer of Urban Studies.


McGhee holds a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Yale University and a Juris Degree from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. She is the author of numerous publications and op-eds, including her 2021 book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. As the title suggests, in the book McGhee rejects the idea that the advances of one ethnic group are gained at the expense of another group (the “zero sum paradigm”) and instead advocates for unity in purpose and action for the mutual benefit of all races (what she terms “the solidarity dividend.”) Filled with personal stories, facts, compassion and vision, the book is a New York Times best-seller and was long-listed for the National Book Award.

“I look forward to joining the esteemed faculty at CUNY SLU and sharing my experiences and knowledge with its diverse student body,” said Ms. McGhee. “CUNY SLU has a decades-long history of supporting workers and educating those who aspire to careers in public service and activism. As we continue to grapple with some of the most pressing issues of inequality in America, I cannot think of a more perfect match as we work to bring about real-world solutions.”

McGhee is an influential voice in the media, having served as a contributor to NBC and regularly appearing on Meet the Press, Morning Joe, The Rachel Maddow Show and other syndicated programs. She is a sought-after public speaker for audiences that include policymakers, philanthropists, civic organizations, students and community groups. She was a featured speaker at the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit in October 2017, and last spring received an honorary degree and delivered the commencement address at the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy.


“Ms. McGhee’s experience as an influential authority on approaches to solving inequality and addressing racial diversity in America have made her a sought-after speaker and commentator for good reason. She is a true “thinker and doer” whose viewpoints, research and writing will bring new perspectives to our students and school,” said Gregory Mantsios, Founding Dean of the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. Over the course of her successful career, Ms. McGhee has reached millions of viewers and readers, calling on all of us to consider our notions of inequality and to re-think how we create cross-racial solidarity. We are thrilled to have her join the faculty here at SLU as we continue our mission of educating students who seek to improve conditions in their workplaces and communities.”


In addition to her influence in the media, McGhee also helped build the non-partisan think tank Dēmos, serving four years as president. Under her leadership, Dēmos infused its vision for debt-free college into the 2016 presidential contest, argued before the Supreme Court to protect voting rights, helped win pro-voter reforms in five states, and led research campaigns that successfully promoted wage increases for low-paid workers on federal contracts, as well as at McDonalds, Walmart and other chain retailers. Her broad political experience includes playing a leadership role in steering the historic Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and being one of the key advocates for the adoption of the Volcker Rule, a regulation that protects bank customers.


McGhee is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, among them the Pritzker Fellowship at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics (Fall 2019) and Yale University Brady-Johnson Grand Strategy Program Distinguished Practitioner (Fall 2021). She also serves on the boards of several prestigious organizations including Open Society Foundations and Color of Change.

Learn more about Heather McGhee at her website: https://heathermcghee.com/.


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About the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies


The School of Labor and Urban Studies (CUNY SLU) is the 25th school at the City University of New York. It offers undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs in Labor Studies and Urban Studies that are designed to meet the needs of working adults as well as traditional-age college students.

SLU is an outgrowth of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, established in 1984 by CUNY in collaboration with three New York City unions, and began with 52 students. Today, the leaders of 26 labor and community organizations serve on the SLU’s advisory board.


The vision for SLU derives from its core values: access to education, diversity at every level, social justice, and equality for all. Its goals are to expand higher education opportunities for workers; prepare students who aspire to careers in public service and movements for social justice; promote civic engagement; provide leadership development for union and community activists; and help workers achieve greater economic security. For more information visit www.slu.cuny.edu.

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