The LGBTQ+ community is constantly growing in the United States and with it the University of Arizona has come to recognize that students who identify as LGBTQ+ need to be better served. Thus, in 2007, after LGBTQ+ students, staff and faculty advocated for and devoted their time to promote equity across campus, the UA established the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Since 2007, the LGBTQ Resource Center has been created to, “build, sustain and strengthen a safe, inclusive and open environment for faculty, staff, appointed professionals, students, alumni, parents and guests of all gender identities and sexual orientations.” With this in mind, the Safe Zone training program became available to create a safer, more welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of the LBTQ+ community, but what does Safe Zone do and where does CALS come in?
The intention of Safe Zone is to shift the campus climate through education about the LGBTQ+ community and support all members of the campus community through free workshops. The training is available online, as well as in-person, with all learning materials accessible through D2L (Desire to Learn). The workshop consists of videos, discussion boards, online assessments, multimedia, and more. Through participation, trainees become identifiable sources of support and nurturing for LGBTQ+ students and peers.
In the spring of 2017, Dean Burgess sponsored Safe Zone training for 50 CALS employees, which Ursula Schuch, the Chair of the CALS Diversity and Inclusiveness Committee (D&IC) and a faculty member in the School of Plant Sciences, had taken the previous year. What Schuch and other committee members learned through the training was invaluable and lead to CALS becoming the first UA college to sponsor and donate to the Office of LGBTQ Affairs for in-person Safe Zone training. “We think it’s really important to have this training available,” states Schuch. “The training is very impactful, especially in person, and for anyone who has a chance, I would highly recommend it. It gives you a level of insight and experience that you would otherwise never have unless you’re in that community.”
In addition to sponsorship, the academic unit heads of CALS worked together this spring, alongside Dean Burgess, to procure a donation for the Safe Zone program. This donation will help fund further training and more. To become involved or learn more about the Office of LGBTQ Affairs, the Safe Zone program, or the CALS Diversity and Inclusiveness Committee, please visit the websites outlined in the “Extra Info” section below.