Prof. David Cunningham (SOC), who chairs the Sociology department, will leave the University after 16 years at the end of this academic year. 

He will begin a tenured professorship at Washington University in St. Louis in the fall. 

Cunningham described his professorship at Washington University as a “unique opportunity”—he will be helping to build the university’s new sociology department. The department was phased out in 1989, according to a March 25, 2014 Washington University release announcing the re-establishment of the department. 

The department was allegedly phased out due to financial reasons, but according to a March 25, 2014 St. Louis Public Radio broadcast, tension existed between the Sociology faculty and the administration. According to the broadcast, some members of the faculty failed to earn tenure, and by the time the university decided to shut down the department, only four Sociology professors remained, and only one had tenure. 

Cunningham was hired at Brandeis as an assistant professor on the tenure track in 1999. 

He has spent the last three years as the Sociology department chair, and his research focuses primarily on social movements. He has taught sociology introductory courses, research methods courses and Justice Brandeis Semester programs. 

He has worked closely with the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life and the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. Cunningham also chairs the Social Justice and Social Policy program. 

“I really like to find ways to try to connect the subject matter in Sociology to things that really matter in [students’] lives, and students really—at Brandeis especially I think—are interested in meeting you there and trying to absorb themselves in the material,” said Cunningham in an interview with the Justice. 

Cunningham also noted that Brandeis is a “challenging place to be,” but for reasons that he said that he appreciates. “Brandeis is not the sort of place where you can skate by with your teaching because you’re busy with your research or skate by with your research because you’re involved with students or any of that. It’s really a place that keeps challenging you on all those levels,” he said. 

Prof. Wendy Cadge (SOC), who has worked with Cunningham on projects within the department, wrote in an email to the Justice that he “is an inspired teacher, a first rate researcher and a deeply compassionate human being. I have learned a lot from him,” she wrote. “He has made a tremendous difference to all of us at Brandeis and we will miss him." 

"The opportunity at Washington University is a terrific one for him and I wish him all the best.”

Cunningham also worked on several projects in collaboration with other professors at the University. 

“I’m grateful to have gotten to know David as a colleague and as a friend, in part through joint research work we’ve conducted in the US South,” wrote Prof. Daniel Kryder (POL) in an email to the Justice. 

“In addition to being an unusually kind-hearted and constructive person, David is in baseball terms a ‘five tool player’—he is terrific at teaching, research, writing, administration, and most importantly, he truly cares, about his students and about the people who are the focus of his meticulous and illuminating scholarship on the history of race in America.”

Dean of Arts and Sciences Susan Birren wrote in an email to the Justice that Cunningham will continue to serve as the Sociology chair through this semester and that she will work with the department on the chair transition. 

The Dean of Arts and Sciences is responsible for chair appointments in each department, according to the Faculty Handbook. 

“David Cunningham has made many important contributions to Brandeis, including leading our program in Social Justice and Social Policy, developing a wonderful Justice Brandeis Semester and ably chairing the Sociology department,” wrote Birren. 

“I am deeply appreciative of everything that he has done here and wish him all best in his new endeavors," she wrote.