About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different Lawrence faculty member each time — same questions, different answers.


Sigma Colón’s teaching and writing have ranged from cultural geography and environmental humanities to histories of race and colonialism since arriving on the Lawrence University campus six years ago.

An assistant professor of environmental and ethnic studies, Colón became a tenure-track faculty member in 2021 as the interdisciplinary programs of environmental studies and ethnic studies continued to be strengthened. She has been teaching at Lawrence since 2017, first in postdoctoral NEH fellowships in geography and history, then as a visiting assistant professor of environmental and ethnic studies.

As part of the recent Justice, Peace, & Righteousness Teach-in Series held on campus during Black History Month, Colón presented a talk on cross-racial alliances and coalition-building, Black and Brown Solidarity: MLK to Wakanda Forever.

Take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and investigating constructs like race and ethnicity.

Colón holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s degree in history from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University.

We caught up with her to talk about interests in and out of the classroom.

In the classroom 

Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?

I want students to know how invested I am in their education. Everyone steps into the classroom with unique strengths and challenges, and I’m eager to meet students where they’re at, but also to push them to think about things in new ways, take intellectual risks, and challenge themselves to find their voice and create work that they have a stake in.

Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited?

I’m excited about the work students have accomplished applying cultural geography and mapping techniques in my courses. In my Social Justice and Critical Geography course, for example, students have done projects that range from mapping the impacts of gentrification in places such as Harlem, Brooklyn, Chicago, Atlanta, and Madison to mapping the rise and accessibility of music organizations in Philadelphia since the 1920s. My goal is to collaborate with other faculty to establish a digital lab that could house student projects and contribute to a collective archive that helps build community among students and connections to places beyond campus.

Engage with values and concepts like community and justice as you ask and answer big questions about the environment.

Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional, or spiritual) that took you by surprise?

I never expected that my academic pursuits would take me all over the world—especially as someone who grew up in a small town and who mostly traveled to visit family. I did a Fulbright in Turkey, a field institute in Oaxaca, and was a service-learning intern in various countries including Japan, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. My biggest surprise was finding an intellectual home with the Yale Working Group on Globalization and Culture organized by Michael Denning. The experience transformed my understanding of intellectual work as a potentially collective practice that can balance research, political action, and theorizing. Moving from an academic focus on U.S. history for my master’s to doing cultural studies for my Ph.D. took me to conferences in places like Istanbul, Paris, Toulouse, and Tampere where I presented projects with the working group that grew out of our collaborative work.

Out of the classroom

This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing?  

Dancing, I hope! I’ve always loved dancing and found an incredible Argentine tango community in New Haven, Connecticut. When my good friend Jessica Keiser and I were co-presidents of Yale Tango Club we had practicas and milongas multiple times a week and took the train or carpooled to New York City regularly just to dance all night.

Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus?

I love the library. I used to spend more time working in the library than in my office. The windows on the first floor are great and I enjoy seeing the new books, displays, and exhibits. I appreciate all the work that our librarians and staff members do to make the space feel open and accessible and to cultivate creativity and community.

One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?

There are so many books that speak to my soul, but the one that I probably recommend most often is Kiese Laymon’s Heavy

For music, Un Verano Sin Ti because Bad Bunny keeps “winning in non-English.”

During our recent snowstorm, my partner Josh and I walked to our friend Jesús Smith’s house to watch Everything Everywhere All at Once and it was as good as everyone said it would be. The notion that the universe is a vast, potentially meaningless series of possibilities and alternate realities that can be stifling or leave us unfilled feels accurate. And I appreciate that the film tries to offer us some hope that committing to the present moment and to the people we love might ultimately be the thing that saves us.