Courtesy of the Women and Gender Resource Center
Lizzie Smith is the new director of the UA Safe Zone, a program under the UA Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that provides crisis intervention and support for LGBTQ students.
The UA Safe Zone also hosts community-building events and educational programming for students, faculty and staff. The program also houses an ally-training program.
With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English, Smith started as an English instructor at the Capstone.
In 2012, Smith decided to go into higher education administration and advocacy work. That year, she began working toward her doctorate in higher education administration while also working as a graduate assistant for the UA Safe Zone.
After working as a graduate assistant for the UA Safe Zone and a program coordinator for the Women and Gender Resource Center for the past seven years, Smith said she is grateful to return to the UA Safe Zone as the program’s director.
“[I] just finished my Ph.D., and then the job posting for the Safe Zone opened up, and so it was kind of like a kismet opportunity to come back to my professional roots,” Smith said.
Smith transitioned from teaching to advocacy for LGBTQ youth after seeing her younger sibling’s negative experience after coming out, which led to her sibling being uncomfortable with friends and in school.
“When the Safe Zone job opened, I was like, that’s perfect, right?” Smith said. “I get to be a person that helps somebody like my younger sibling, and I also get to work in a space as affirming of my own identity.”
As the new program director, Smith said she plans to partner with campus organizations to create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ students, hire student staff to ground the program in a sustainable way, and make sure the program is effective for LGBTQ students.
Apart from that, Smith plans to focus on the ally-training program.
“I really want to establish a consistent ally-training schedule, so that people who do want to get trained can do so,” Smith said. “It is important for people to know that you don’t have to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community to make this campus a safe space.”
“There are a lot of resources here at the Safe Zone,” she said. “If you’re looking to find inclusive places, the easiest way to do that is just to come talk to us.”
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