UAB’s SafeZone Celebrates 20 Years of LGBTQ+ Education and Training – University of Alabama at Birmingham | Team Cansler

For two decades, UAB’s SafeZone has been educating and educating faculty, staff and students on LGBTQ+ identity and social justice.

Written by Brianna Hoge
Media contact: Alicia Rohan

For two decades, UAB’s SafeZone has been educating and educating faculty, staff and students on LGBTQ+ identity and social justice. Seven shared values ​​are central to the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s strategic plan, Forging the Future. One of the seven is diversity and inclusivity, and in honor of that value, UAB is celebrating two decades of providing education and training on LGBTQ+ identity and social justice through the SafeZone program.

More than 20 years ago, faculty members across campus, including Glenda Elliott, Ph.D., Associate Professor Emeritus at the UAB School of Education, began efforts to develop services for LGBTQ+ students on campus. In 2001, a committee appointed Virginia Gauld, Ph.D., then vice president for student affairs, to develop a service proposal. The committee, chaired by Elliott, proposed the Safe Zone program and pilot training for the program was held.

“When we developed the Safe Zone program, the goals were to raise awareness, increase understanding of LGBTQ+ issues and concerns, and identify resources that are available to every member of the UAB community,” said Elliott.

Positive feedback from participants in the pilot training led to the approval of the Safe Zone program and the first campus-wide training took place in February 2002. Later that year, in the fall semester, a second campus-wide training was held, marking the first year of the UAB Safe Zone program.

The program, now called SafeZone, provides faculty and staff with in-person and online training on LGBTQ+ issues they may encounter when working with students.

Today, UAB offers services not only to teachers and staff, but also to students. A SafeZone program for undergraduate and graduate students was established in 2015 as part of the Student Multicultural and Diversity Programs in the Department of Student Affairs.

“SafeZone provides a space for students to learn and ask questions about LGBTQ+ identities and social justice issues, empowering these students to advocate for inclusion both on and off campus,” said Daniel Blackwood, graduate assistant at the UAB Student Affairs LGBTQ+ Programs. “However, SafeZone not only imparts knowledge to the students; It also serves to make UAB’s commitment to diversity and inclusion visible to all LGBTQ+ individuals who come to our campus.”

Twice a semester, the student SafeZone program offers three sessions on different topics:

  • SafeZone 101: an introduction to gender, sex, and sexuality where participants will learn basic terminology and gain access to campus resources
  • Trans 101: A general training course that provides participants with a deeper understanding of trans identities and issues faced by trans people on campus
  • SafeZone 201: an exploration of one’s identity and learning about systemic privilege, oppression and social justice

Learn more about UAB’s strategic plan here.

The sessions are led by SafeZone Peer Educators, a group of student volunteers who provide education and training on issues such as gender, sexuality, power and oppression. Their goal is to provide a visible network where all UAB undergraduate, graduate students, and professionals can receive knowledge and ask questions in a welcoming space to make the campus a safer and more acceptable place for LGBTQ+ students, staff, – to make lecturers and visitors.

In addition to scheduled sessions, student organizations on campus may request special training for their groups.

Looking ahead, Elliott, who retired from her position as SafeZone training coordinator in 2012, hopes the program can continue to educate and raise awareness of inclusion for all campus members.

“The essence of the SafeZone program is to contribute to an environment within the university community where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and I hope this can continue to be the case for all students, faculty and staff at UAB,” said Eliott.

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