Alana LaBeaf wants the Fond du Lac Public Library to be a welcoming and safe space for everyone.
When it was time for the outreach services coordinator to take a refresher course on issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community, LaBeaf searched the internet and found University of Wisconsin-Stout’s free Safe Space Training offered online.
“All eight of us in the Information Services department participated in the training,” LaBeaf said. “I was personally interested in the training, as I am constantly trying to widen my knowledge and ensure that the library is doing all it can to reach everyone. It's just a wonderful resource for workplaces and educational institutions, which both bring together people from all walks of life.
“Safe Space Training helps guide people by giving them tools about respectfully addressing others, and I think it provides a new vocabulary for those who may inadvertently offend but are open to improving their communication. Creating an equitable space is my number one priority at the library,” LaBeaf said.
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.”
In January, Eastman had a request from a Menomonie resident who wanted to take the course but was not affiliated with UW-Stout. Working with UW-Stout’s Learning and Information Technology, Eastman was able to open the course to anyone, anywhere who wants to learn and be an ally for the LGBTQIA+ community.
“I never expected other people outside the area to find the course,” Eastman said, adding she is pleased the training is reaching beyond UW-Stout and throughout the United States. “It’s expanding the knowledge and allyship beyond Menomonie. It benefits the community and our UW-Stout grads to have more allies.”
Taking an online course is an easy and low-risk way to be an ally, Eastman said. “I am hoping it will open other’s eyes to what people are facing each day just by existing or learning what is it like to be misgendered,” she added.
June is Pride Month, a time to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, the impact LGBTQIA+ people have had in the world and a great time to take the course, Eastman said. To learn more, contact Eastman at email@example.com or visit the Safe Space Training website.
LaBeaf said she loved the self-pace of the course, allowing for introspection and reflection.
“I enjoyed the training a lot, and even though I consider myself an ally and keep up with issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community, I still learned some things I didn't know,” LaBeaf said. “I especially appreciated the section on intersectionality — that was a very important aspect that wasn't covered in other trainings like this that I have taken.”
Jamie Bowe, academic department associate with the UW-Stout operations and management department, took the online course in March. She wanted to increase her knowledge of topics important to the LGBTQIA+ community and to learn how to alleviate issues facing members of the community.
“UW-Stout employees receive a certificate of completion to display, which I feel is important for students and peers to see to increase awareness and declare myself as an active ally,” Bowe said. “Personal growth is always important. This is a way to grow personally while also benefiting others and improving campus culture.”
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.