A career of educating

Professor David Brundage retires after 38 years of teaching at UC Santa Cruz

Professor David Brundage
David Brundage with a Merrill undergraduate research mentee in 2014

Around 100  UC Santa Cruz staff and faculty retire each year. Please join us in celebrating the next chapter of their lives. If you or someone you know is retiring and would like to be included on the Welcome to Retirement page information can be submitted to the Retiree & Emeriti Center at rec@ucsc.edu.


With an illustrious academic career spanning decades, Professor David Brundage has cultivated an extraordinary legacy at UC Santa Cruz and touched thousands of students’ lives and minds. 

After 38 years of interdisciplinary teaching and research at UCSC, Brundage is retiring.

When a student walks out of one of his classes, he hopes they leave with a critical awareness of the deep inequalities within American society in terms of class, race, gender, and ethnicity.

“It’s important to know how to think critically but also how to make positive social change while facing the grave inequalities in American life,” he says. “I hope they learn something about the importance of history, the importance of knowing the history of popular movements like the civil rights movement, and knowing that history is a resource for making positive change in the present.”  

Thousands of students have gone in and out of the doors of Brundage’s classes, and many of them leave with a new perspective on history and how to make positive social change. Over the years, he has received notes from multiple alumni, many of whom have gone on to teach social studies, run nonprofits, lead labor organizing drives, join political campaigns, and remember Brundage’s teachings. 

“Students would write to me out of the blue years later saying they remembered my courses,” he says. “One is a high school teacher, one is a city planner, and one worked for Obama in 2008. She said she had remembered what I taught her about six years earlier on race and American politics. It’s super rewarding to look back on all of the wonderful students I’ve had over the years.” 

Brundage won the UCSC Social Sciences “Golden Apple” Outstanding Teaching Award in 1997 and served as a mentor in Merrill College’s Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program in 2013-14 and 2019-20.

Brundage began his career at UCSC in 1985 when the campus was still the newest in the UC system and was known for its small class sizes and unique collaboration between faculty and students. In fact, one of the very first classes he taught consisted of ten students with two faculty members. 

“I feel like there are two parts to my career here. One was very undergrad focused and was in very small settings. And then in the last 10-11 years, there have been bigger classes, but more work with graduate students, and I have really enjoyed that as well.” 

Two of his recent doctoral students have published important historical monographs of their own.

Brundage primarily taught Community Studies courses until 2011, then moved to the History Department, where he carried out the rest of his tenure. 

His research centers on the intersection of labor and immigration history, focusing particularly on the Irish in America. He is the author of The Making of Western Labor Radicalism: Denver’s Organized Workers. 1878-1905 and a co-author of Who Built America? Working People & the Nation’s Economy, Politics, Culture & Society. His latest book, Irish Nationalists in America: The Politics of Exile, 1798-1998 (published by Oxford University Press in 2016), explores the long history of transnational political activism among the Irish in the United States. Both of his sole-authored books were selected as Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Titles.

A highlight of his career was serving in the Academic Senate. Brundage started Academic Senate service very early in his career, pre-tenure; he served as the Chair of the UCSC Academic Senate from 2020-22. 

“I took seriously the notion that in the UC system, we have shared governance, especially around curriculum and teaching,” Brundage said. “The Academic Senate is the voice of the faculty, and in these areas especially, the faculty is listened to. And so, I was always involved in the Senate, and joining leadership and serving as Senate Chair at a difficult moment for our campus was extremely gratifying.” 

Before arriving at UC Santa Cruz, Brundage earned his BA from Reed College, his M.A. from the University of Warwick, and a Ph.D. from UCLA. 

Brundage is excited to head into retirement and focus on his research, perhaps at a somewhat slower pace. 

To honor our retiring staff and faculty for their years of service, new retirees are invited to the campus Welcome to Retirement Celebration on June 29 at the UCSC Institute of the Arts and Sciences.