A Safe Space is where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, and asexual/aromantic individuals and their allies are affirmed and supported and where discussions of sexuality and gender issues can occur openly and constructively. Safe Space Training is one of the services of the Qube, located in Merle M. Price Commons, that offers educational and social programming and discussion and support groups for LGBTQIA+ students.
Since about 2010, UW-Stout has offered in-person Safe Space Training to faculty, staff and students. In August 2020, Nicole Eastman. LGBTQIA+ program coordinator, launched the training as an online Canvas course because of COVID-19 restrictions. The course addresses topics including gender identity and pronouns, terminology and binary issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community and how to be an ally.
About 200 people have taken the course, including about two dozen outside of UW-Stout.
“With Canvas we can have videos, PowerPoint printouts and quizzes,” Eastman said. “The information is there for people to come back to and finish on their timeline. It takes on average about 90 minutes to complete.”
Kristine Meshak, a UW-Stout Career Services co-op and internship assistant, took the course in February. “As someone who identifies as LGBTQIA+, I understand the need for continued learning and understanding in this area,” she said. “As with any area of equity, diversity and inclusion the most personal growth happens when individuals keep an open and engaged attitude with a focus on continuous improvement. I wanted to learn more about other types of identities and sexualities that I am less familiar with to be the best ally I can be.”
Meshak enjoyed the training and encouraged others to take the course.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how modern and up-to-date the information was,” she said. “It felt like I was getting an authentic and accurate understanding of the information, including an inclusive list and use of pronouns, current issues in the LGBTQIA+ community and useful resources for myself and others. The online training worked well for me because I was able to navigate the information at my own pace and I could review the resources whenever I need them, including rewatching video clips or reprinting materials. I would love to see this information spread far and wide.”
UW-Stout is committed to diversity and it is part of the university’s mission statement and values “the nobility of spirit, a diversity of people, respect and inclusion for all.”
The university also offers a Workplace Diversity certificate to show managers how to capitalize on the ever more diverse workforce and improve long-term organizational success by bringing fresh ideas and new perspectives to the world of work.