Safe Zone

What is Safe Zone? Look for this sign across campus.

Safe Zone members are identified by this sign that they hang on their office door or living space, or by other Safe Zone visual indicators, and are trained to be better allies to LGBTQIA+ students. Members agree that they work to provide a personal space that is free from homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia while serving as a resource to LGBTQIA+ and allied students. All students, staff, and faculty are eligible to join. “This is a safe place to talk about LGBTQIA+ and topics about sexual orientation and gender.”

UIS Safe Zone Sign for members

Training Session Reviews:

A phenomenal program with noble goals of supporting and advocating on behalf of the LGBTQ community. Very encouraging and inspiring.

Very helpful information presented in a very comfortable atmosphere.

Wasn’t sure I would learn anything – but really did!

The fundamental session was extremely informative. Need to take a class more than a session.

Program was engaging, new, kept my interest. I was impressed!

I feel this information is highly practical in the potential of sharing this information and helping individuals.

Register to Become a Member

Potential members must complete the Fundamentals Session and two advanced sessions. Any UIS Faculty, Staff, or Student may attend Safe Zone Sessions. Registration is through the UIS Connection portal.

All staff can attend with permission of supervisor. Members achieve additional star stickers for their Safe Zone sign to indicate completion of an advanced session.

Fundamentals Session (Must attend or test out online):
A basic awareness and knowledge session that prepares participants for the five advanced sessions. This introductory three hour session includes a guided imagery, interactive terminology game, an introduction to trans identities as well as the human sexuality continuum, and a LGBT Icon’s in History game with an emphasis on multiple identities. Student peer educators conclude with an engaging Gay 101 activity and interactive panel.

  • Fri., February 8th – Safe Zone: Fundamentals, 12PM-3PM, PAC Restaurant, register here.
  • Fri., February 22nd – Safe Zone: Bisexuality/Pansexuality, 12PM-2PM, PAC Restaurant, register here.
  • Fri., March 1st – Safe Zone: Religion & Faith, 12PM-2PM, PAC Restaurant, register here.
  • Fri., March 29th – NCBI Leadership for Inclusion: A Bias & Prejudice Reduction Workshop, facilitated by the UIS Coalition Builders, 9AM-4:30PM, PAC G, register here
  • Mon., April 1st – Safe Zone: Gender & Transgender, 10:30AM-1:30PM, PAC Restaurant, register here.
  • Tues., April 16th – Safe Zone: Safe Dating, Sex, & Relationships Advanced Session, 12PM-2PM, LRH Great Room, register here.
  • Test Out of the Fundamentals Session online! After successfully completing the online test, you will be able register for your two required advanced sessions. The Fundamentals test out should take about 30-60 minutes. Keep in mind, this test is to evaluate your knowledge and competencies regarding issues pertaining to and affecting LGBTQIA+ individuals. Failure to prove sufficient expertise would mean that you will have to attend a Fundamentals session to continue with the Safe Zone program. You automatically pass with a score of 90% or above.

Instructions to access Safe Zone Test Out:

  1. Click the link below to direct you to Test Out webpage.
  2. Click the green “Continue” button as displayed.
  3. Input your UIS ID and password.
  4. Locate “The Safe Zone Hub” course.
  5. Click the link to access the Course
  6. Click “Enroll me” to gain access.

Click this link to begin:

Advanced Sessions will be available in the spring semester 2019. —must complete two of your choice to become a member, but attend all that you want:

  • Bisexuality & Pansexuality Advanced SessionAn incredibly interactive session that dispels myths, defines terminology, and explains sexuality as a spectrum. Participants will gain a greater awareness of bisexuality as a valid sexual orientation and how biphobia manifests in the heterosexual as well as non-heterosexual populations. This session is recommended for anyone in need of understanding sexual identity development over the lifespan
  • Religion & Faith Advanced SessionGod does not condemn LGBTQIA+ people. This session allows for participants to confidentially share their own faith or beliefs while introducing key challenges facing LGBTQIA+ people seeking to balance both identities. Participants will gain information and LGBTQIA-supportive resources in a Judeo-Christian context, as well as thoughtful, respectful language and strategies to engage with people of faith. Recommended for any potential Safe Zone member that may be struggling with this issue or in need of information to support LGBTQIA+ students of faith.
  • NCBI Prejudice Reduction Advanced SessionThis award winning workshop consists of a series of incremental, participatory activities that empower individuals of all ages and backgrounds to take leadership in building inclusive communities in their workplaces, social groups, and neighborhoods. Participants are students, staff, and faculty who are exposed to people with similarities and differences who they engage in life changing discussion. The workshop builds effective relationships within and across group identities. For more information, check out the UIS Coalition Builders.
  • Gender & Transgender Advanced Session: Transgender people continue to be an invisible, often forgotten community. This session helps participants develop self-awareness and compassion and to think critically about their own assumptions and vulnerabilities as related to gender. Participants will learn about the gender binary, understand accurate terms, explore potential gender transition processes, and consider common concerns and challenges in higher education. This session is recommended for any person wanting to learn how to become a better ally to this population.
  • Safe Dating, Sex, & Relationships Advanced Session: How do LGBTQIA+ students and people meet, date, and define relationships? This engaging session covers sensitive and mature issues such as hooking up online and keeping it safe, dating scripts, sex and sexuality, HIV and STD disclosure, and an overview of intimate partner violence. Care is given to provide a safe zone of confidentiality to all participants. Recommended for those who interact with students, particularly students entering the dating pool or potentially engaging in sex.

Still do not understand how to become a member? Download this “How it Works” graphic.

Why have a Safe Zone program at UIS?

Safe Zone programs have proven to be useful in affecting campus climate change (Evans, 2002; Poynter & Tubbs, 2008), while the associated trainings create more accepting attitudes among Safe Zone members (Finkel, 2003). In the spring of 2012, UIS LGB students rated the overall climate less positive than their heterosexual peers at UIS (UI University Wide Climate Survey, 2012). Additionally, students who do not identify as male or female “are less positive about the overall climate at the University of Illinois” (p. 8). In a separate study of UIS (Karuppaswamy and Poynter, 2010), UIS LGBTQ students who are very out and have been for a long time reported that the climate did not contribute to their quality of life or sense of well-being. These results mirror the National College Climate Survey (Rankin, Weber, Blumenfeld, & Frazer, 2010) which reported that “all LGBT students rated their campus environment less positively than did ‘straight’ students” (p.2), and LGBT “individuals (are) the least accepted group when compared to other under-served populations and, consequently, more likely to indicate deleterious experiences and less than welcoming campus climates” (p.9). Other studies nationwide, have found that LGBTQ students encounter a less than welcoming environment at the collegiate level (Noack, 2004; Rankin, 2003).

The public identification of Safe Zone members can help alleviate the real or perceived climate concerns for the LGBTQIA+ population. The Safe Zone program can also help students in the earlier stages of coming out, as well as students in the general university population, to understand their multiple identities (race, sexual orientation, etc.) in order to better process through the life issues they will encounter throughout their college experience (relationships, family, religion, etc.).


Evans, N. (2002). The impact of an LGBT Safe Zone Project on campus climate. Journal of College Student Development, 43, 522-539.

Finkel M.J., et al. (2003). Diversity training in graduate school: An exploratory evaluation of the Safe Zone Project, Professional Psychology, Research and Practice, 34, 555-561.

Karappaswamy, N., & Poynter, K. (2010). A needs assessment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning students at the University of Illinois Springfield: A multiphase qualitative study. Unpublished raw data.

Evans, N.J., & Broido, E.M. (2005). Encouraging the development of social justice attitudes and actions in heterosexual students. In Reason, R.D.; Broido, E. M.; Davis, T. L.; & Evans, J. P. (Eds.), Developing social justice allies: New directions in student services, 110, 43-54. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Noack, K. W. (2004). An assessment of the campus climate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons as perceived by the faculty, staff, and administration at Texas A&M University. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation.

Poynter, K., & Tubbs, N. J. (2008). Safe zones: Creating LGBT safe space ally programs, Journal of LGBT Youth, 5, 121–132.

Rankin, S. (2003). Campus climate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people: A national perspective. New York: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.

Rankin, S., Weber, G., Blumenfeld, W., & Frazer, S. (2010). 2010 state of higher education for lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender people. Charlotte, NC: Campus Pride.

University of Illinois climate survey results and reports (2012). Retrieved August 22, 2012


The coordinating committee used the 2011/2012 academic year to listen and talk to current members about their continuing needs, reviewed the visibility and operating procedures of the program, and practiced facilitation skills. A new curriculum has been written that includes material on multiple identities, the intersections of faith and sexuality, and a stronger trans and bisexuality emphasis. Pilot testing of the curriculum occurred over the summer of 2012. Additionally, trained “inQUEERY” student peer educators will, for the first time, play a role in facilitating. This new Safe Zone streamlines the process of becoming a member while maintain a training commitment that is steeped in best practices and contemporary education.

Safe Zone began at UIS over seven years ago as an ad-hoc committee of staff, faculty, and students from across the university. In its duration, the program has trained hundreds of students, staff, and faculty to be better allies to the LGBTQIA+ community at UIS.

Coordinating Committee & Facilitators

  • Dr. Holly Kent – Assistant Professor, History
  • Deb Ply – Office Manager, Office of Undergraduate Education
  • Kerry Poynter – Director, Gender & Sexuality Student Services
  • Andrea Duvendack – Graduate Assistant, Gender & Sexuality Student Services
  • Dr. Holly Thompson – Associate Professor, Human Development Counseling
  • John Freml – IT Tech Associate, Online Learning & Faculty Development Specialist
  • Pamela Salela – Associate Professor, Library Instructional Services
  • Rexann Whorton – Program Director, Women’s Center
  • Dr. Jason Pierceson – Professor, Political Science


If you are interested in joining the coordinating committee, facilitation team, would like to request a training, or have questions, please contact the Gender and Sexuality Student Services at or 217-206-8316.