Faculty Focus – Dr. Aurora Santiago Ortiz

Dr. Aurora Santiago Ortiz
Dr. Aurora Santiago Ortiz

Name: Aurora Santiago Ortiz

Title: Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Chican@/Latin@ Studies

Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Educational/professional background: I have a BFA in Film and Television from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, a JD from the University of Puerto Rico, and a PhD from UMass Amherst.

What is your field of research, and how did you get into it? My research examines two main avenues: anticolonial, antiracist, and feminist activisms in Puerto Rico and their connections to social movements in the US and Latin America, and how these forms of activism inform popular pedagogies and community-based research. For over two decades, I have been interested in documenting the varying and creative forms of resistance of multiply oppressed communities. I have done so through documentary filmmaking, working at the ACLU and community economic development legal aid clinic in Puerto Rico during my legal studies, and my transdisciplinary community-based research in Puerto Rico. My mother played a huge role in my political development. I would attend marches and demonstrations with her since I can remember, and I still do, along with my own daughter.

What attracted you to UW-Madison? UW-Madison has an activist tradition, that continues to this day. I was also interested in the public facing work the university does, as well as the commitment to working with communities outside the campus.

What was your first visit to campus like? I first visited campus was September 2021. I spent some time in front of the lake at the Memoria Union Terrace, and I loved watching people enjoy the warm weather and water, as I also did!

Favorite place on campus? My favorite place is the Memorial Union Terrace! Surely most folks would agree.

What are you looking forward to most this academic year? I look forward to getting to know my students! They are inspiring and have been a great source of knowledge about the campus and Madison area. I also look forward to getting to know Madison and the community organizing that goes on here.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? My work is completely connected to the overarching ethos of the Wisconsin Idea. As a community-based researcher, I continuously strive to center ancestral, community, and popular knowledges just as much as academic knowledge. My work in general seeks to bridge the divide of the university with the community, in a reciprocal and nonhierarchical way. I have been fortunate to attend public institutions, and I passionately believe that a low cost (or free) or accessible education is vital and should be available to all.

What is an interesting fact within your area of expertise that you could share at parties, now that we can attend them again?  Community-based research can be a tool to organize alongside communities, as well as transform the way that we relate to one another, towards more collectively-oriented relationships!

Hobbies/other interests: I love trivia! And playing video games. I also love trying as many restaurants as I can in Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Chicago!