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Written by: Brianna Hoge


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

At the heart of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Strategic Plan, Forging the Future, are seven Shared Values. One of the seven is diversity and inclusiveness, and in honor of that value, UAB is celebrating two decades of providing training and education 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 emerita in the UAB School of Education, began gathering efforts to develop services dedicated to LGBTQ+ students on campus. In 2001, a committee appointed Virginia Gauld, Ph.D., then vice president for Student Affairs, to develop a proposal for services. The committee, chaired by Elliott, proposed the Safe Zone program, and a pilot training session for the program was held.

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

Positive feedback from attendees of the pilot training resulted in the approval of the Safe Zone program, and the first campuswide training was held in February 2002. Later that year, in the fall semester, a second campuswide training was held, marking the first year of the UAB Safe Zone program.  

Now designated as SafeZone, the program offers in-person and online training sessions to faculty and staff on LGBTQ+ issues they may encounter while working with students.

Today UAB offers services not only to faculty and staff, but also to students. Under the Student Multicultural and Diversity Programs in the Division of Student Affairs, a SafeZone program was founded in 2015 for undergraduate and graduate students.  

“SafeZone provides a space where students learn and ask questions about LGBTQ+ identities and social justice issues, which empowers those students to champion inclusion both on and off campus,” said Daniel Blackwood, UAB Student Affairs LGBTQ+ Programs graduate assistant. “However, SafeZone does more than equip students with knowledge; it also serves to make UAB’s commitment to diversity and inclusion visible for all LGBTQ+ individuals who come to our campus.”

Twice a semester, the student SafeZone program offers three sessions that cover various topics:

  • SafeZone 101: an introduction to gender, sex and sexuality where participants learn basic terminology and how to access campus resources
  • Trans 101: a general training that introduces participants to a more in-depth understanding of trans identities and issues trans people face on campus
  • SafeZone 201: an examination of their own identities and learning about systemic privilege, oppression and social justice
Learn more about UAB’s strategic plan here.

Sessions are led by SafeZone peer educators, a group of volunteer undergraduate students who provide education and training around issues of gender, sexuality, power and oppression. Their goal is to provide a visible network where all UAB undergraduate, graduate and professional students can receive knowledge and ask questions in a welcoming space in order to help make campus a safer, more accepting place for LGBTQ+ students, staff, faculty and visitors.

In addition to the scheduled sessions, student organizations on campus can request specialized trainings for their groups.  

Looking ahead, Elliott, who retired from her position as coordinator of training for SafeZone in 2012, hopes the program can continue educating and bringing awareness of inclusivity to every member of campus.

“The essence of the SafeZone program is to contribute to the environment of the university community in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and I hope it can continue to do that for all UAB students, faculty and staff,” Elliott said.