Dr. Santiago is among the first scholars to specialize in the teaching and learning of Latina/o history.  In particular, her research is concerned with how Mexican American contributions are taught in U.S. History classrooms, and what their inclusion tells us about conceptions of Mexican Americans.  Dr. Santiago uses Mendez v. Westminster, a case about 1940s Mexican American school desegregation to research history of education, and curriculum and instruction.  As an interdisciplinary scholar, Dr. Santiago’s work merges history with teacher education and curriculum studies; blends history, sociology, and anthropology methods; and draws on literature from education, philosophy, law, and history.  As such, her research contributes to the fields of Education, History, American Studies, and Chicana/o Studies.   

Her history research centers on how Mendez (a 1940s Mexican American school desegregation case) becomes part of the curricular canon via its inclusion in the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools.  She documents the various narrative shifts that Mendez undergoes to guarantee its inclusion into the curriculum and history classrooms.  This work highlights how historical complexity is omitted for the sake of inclusion. 

Dr. Santiago’s education research documents how students learn a linear story of racial progress, shorn of nuance that erases the variegated experiences of Mexican Americans and other people of color.  To addresses these pedagogical concerns, she developed and studied a curricular intervention that complicates the Black-White racial narrative of progress, and teaches the racial nuances of the Mexican American experiences.  Multiple competitive research and dissertation grants have supported this work.

Collectively, Dr. Santiago’s work explores how Latinas/os are beginning to make their way into the U.S. History curriculum.  Her research in progress expands on this work.  She continues to develop and study curricula that aims to challenge the Black-White racial narrative of progress.