TAMIU Sharing Safe Zone Program with Community
Posted: 11/13/14

TAMIU Sharing Safe Zone
Program with Community

A Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) program that encourages faculty, staff, students and community members to become more aware, active and allied to the concerns of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) population is now able to provide off-campus workshops to interested organizations and groups.

Teresa Renn, TAMIU Safe Zone Program coordinator, said that the program’s creation at TAMIU was part of a national effort to create communities where students can feel safe expressing their true selves.  Safe Zone has become common among institutions of higher learning and includes an informal network of resources for universities.

“Safe Zone Programs can assist campus professionals in identifying the needs of LGBTQ students while creating a culture of tolerance on campus. Although millennial students are often categorized as being liberal in their political and religious ideology, research shows that over one third of students who identify as LGBTQ report having experienced harassment in the preceding year.

“Our Safe Zone effort focuses on our front line of student contact, campus faculty and staff, to help students.  These campus members are often faced with situations when students share experiencing discrimination, confusion or relationship concerns related to sexual identity. It is often professors, mentors or staff that students choose to ‘come out’ to, and the reaction that a student receives in that moment can alter their course as both college student and young adult,” Renn explained. 

“TAMIU’s Safe Zone Program was launched this Fall.  Reaction has been highly positive, with over 17 offices receiving training in full capacity sessions. Sessions are also offered for students and one group of Communication students chose to highlight the Safe Zone program for a group project spreading campus awareness of the program,” she said.

Renn said the Safe Zone Workshops focus on creating Allies.

“These workshops aim to create an Ally network on campus. An Ally is someone who supports, advocates for, and respects members of the LGBTQ community. This Ally network helps to create a more safe, welcoming and tolerant campus for the entire TAMIU community. During a workshop, participants are challenged to learn about the power of language, their assumptions about the LGBTQ community and how to act as an Ally,” she explained.

She said she was encouraged by requests from community groups for information on Safe Zone and its workshops.

“While historically the national Safe Zone workshops have been intended for college campuses, Safe Zone is now being shared at high schools, non-profit agencies and others.  We have been heartened by inquiries from the community about the program,” Renn noted.

“We are happy to provide workshops to off-campus agencies on an as-needed basis. This training allows for volunteers, staff, or leadership teams to become more culturally competent-- creating spaces where people feel safe only allows teams to excel more – regardless of the industry. Workshops can be customized to meet the requestor’s needs,” Renn said.

The first such off-campus agency to participate in a TAMIU-presented Safe Zone Workshop will be Voz de Niños.

Renn said persons or groups interested in Safe Zone programming can contact her at TAMIU, 956.326.2280, email teresam.renn@tamiu.edu or visit offices in the Student Center.

University office hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu