The Center for Diversity and Inclusion is revamping, adding new programs and initiatives this semester. A major target of improvements has been the Safe Zone certification, first offered to faculty but now to student organizations as well.
The Safe Zone training creates a network of knowledge faculty and students use to help provide a safe environment for LGBTQ+ people.
Kerrion Dean, program coordinator for the CDI, said over the last few years Safe Zone training had become non-functioning because of staffing changes.
“As [the CDI staff] were preparing to start it back up again, we were thinking about what we should be adding to it and what we should be changing,” Dean said.
Completing the Safe Zone certification grants faculty and student organizations a mention on the CDI website that will let students know the organization or class is a safe environment to enter, said Dean. To get that certification, organizations must have 25% of their membership, including three of their executive board members complete the Safe Zone training.
Allison Gus, Director of Admissions, volunteered her team to be the first participants in the new revamped Safe Zone training.
“The idea of volunteering the admission team as the test group of this training was that we are very often at the front of those conversations with students and their families,” Gus said. “We are often the first person that they may be speaking with when it comes to questions, be it in the collegiate journey or be it specific to Truman State University.”
Dean said the training groups will start by establishing group expectations and a safe space for people to share their experiences.
Then, they dive into understanding the ever-growing amount of vocabulary surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. They also complete a couple of activities that explore the differences between gender, sexuality and romanticism as well as understanding privilege and all its caveats, Dean said.
“Times are always changing, vocabulary is always changing, so we want to ensure that we are being educated and respectful to the best of our ability,” Gus said.
“[This program] is essential for our office, but also for every other office and entity on campus,” said Gus. “This is very much a joint effort to ensure that not just Truman but higher education remains an inclusive and welcoming environment. We are all in this together. We are all learners at heart.”
Another initiative this semester is our interfaith advisory board, said Dean.
Faith-based student organizations and community religious affiliated organizations with connections to Truman are invited to participate in the interfaith advisory board.
“The board will help inform us of the program that comes outside the office and that space to be what students want and need,” said Dean.
To kick off the advisory board, there will be a Faith Festival Sept. 27 starting at 1:00pm on the Quad.
Student organizations circulating around faith and spirituality will be tabling for students to walk through and learn about the different organizations.
“We want all of them to come and share that space and show students more about the organization, but also break down the stigma that multiple organizations cannot share one space without there being a debate,” Dean said.