History of Safe Zone at SUNY Geneseo

Safe Zone has been at Geneseo for over twenty years, and documenting the history of the program has been of great interest to the Safe Zone trainers in the past two years. This timeline has been created through the combined efforts of several student trainers and interns for the program through numerous interviews and extensive research.



SUNY Geneseo Safe Zone Program is founded - Geneseo Safe Zone was founded by Dr. Robert Owens (Communications); Distinguished Professor of Communicative Disorders (2002).


Safe Zone training program is developed - Dr. Robert Owens, Dr. Heidi Levine (Director of Student Health & Counseling), and Dr. Julie Carrucio (Director of Orientation and New Student Programs) worked together to develop a basic Safe Zone workshop. They used resources from The Genesee Valley Gay Alliance (now The Out Alliance) and University of Vermont, Carrucio's Alma Mater. At this point it was mostly staff in Residence Life and Counseling staff who were Safe Zone trained. The trainings were not very formal, they included: defining terms within the Queer community, language of allyship, history, and identity development theory.


Opposition to the name “Safe Zone” - There was some opposition to using the name "Safe Zone" as people felt it could imply that some spaces are unsafe. Dr. Gene Griffing (Lauderdale Health and Counseling), who was involved with Safe Zone, brought up the issue of how hard a program was to run without a name to The President's Commission on Diversity and Community. The next day, after reading the meeting minutes, President Dahl then gave the official green light to use the name Safe Zone along with $600 in funding.

The first Safe Zone sticker is developed - Geneseo Safe Zone used the $600 from then President Dahl to make the first-ever Geneseo Safe Zone stickers. Dr. Gene Griffing designed the sticker which was given to participants after completing the workshop.


First “Train the Trainer” program - A day-long program was created in order to train people to become Geneseo Safe Zone trainers. This program covered history, identifying and defining terms within the queer community, and how to be an effective ally.

SUNY Geneseo Safe Zone website was created - The Geneseo Safe Zone website was first developed by Gene Griffing. The website, different from the current website, included a link to request a training, basic vocabulary, and school resources.


Alex Carlo became the next Safe Zone Coordinator - Alex Carlo was a counselor at Lauderdale Health and Counseling. During her time as the coordinator of Safe Zone, it was mainly held in the format of a GOLD workshop once a semester due to the program’s lack of capacity at that time.


First “Safe Zone 2.0” was held - Daniel Jacques (Chemistry) led the first of what would be later called Safe Zone 2.0 with the members of Pride Alliance in Fall 2012. The curriculum of Safe Zone 2.0 focuses on more advanced topics such as intersectionality, allyhood within the LGBTQ+ community, and other identities that aren’t covered in the base Safe Zone curriculum.


First “Safe Zone 3.0” was held - Dan Jacques led the first of what would be later called Safe Zone 3.0 with the members of the Pride Alliance executive board. The curriculum of Safe Zone 3.0 focuses on leadership and creating more support within the LGBTQ+ community.

Safe Zone is Restructured - The LGBTQ+ Working Group took on the task of restructuring the Safe Zone program in Fall 2013, seeing that it was unsustainable in its form at that time. The team that worked on this restructuring was led by Dr. Alice Rutkowski (English).


Dr. Alice Rutkowski became the next Safe Zone Coordinator - Alice became the coordinator of the Safe Zone program after successfully leading the restructuring in 2013. The new structure of the program was solely on a request basis of trainings from different departments and student groups.


Safe Zone Sticker is Redesigned - Ray FeDora ‘10, who was a Residence Director with Residence Life (2012-2017), took the initiative to redesign the Safe Zone sticker after the revitalization of the program in 2013 resulted in an increased popularity in the program. Collaborating with Kristin Fuest, the Student Association graphic designer at the time, and funded by Dr. Celia Easton (Department of Academic Planning and Advising), then the Director of Residence Life, Ray updated and modernized the sticker to give it a fresh new look. Once approved by the LGBTQ+ Working Group, the sticker was adopted into the program! This is our currently used sticker design.


First “Train the Trainer” course offered - The Safe Zone Program shifted from offering a day-long training course for faculty, staff and students, to offering a semester-long course open to prospective student trainers. The very first semester-long course was offered in Fall 2017 and students were chosen through an application process that took place in the semester prior. The application consisted of general get-to-know-you questions, comfortability levels with public speaking and LGBTQ+ issues, as well as short-essay style questions about intentions and goals for the program. Faculty and staff are trained in a day-long course provided by The Rochester Out Alliance that covers, "how to develop, enhance and maintain environments in workplaces, schools and other social settings that are safe, welcoming and inclusive for individuals who are LGBTQ+" (The Rochester Out Alliance).


The first Safe Zone retreat is held - This, now annual event, was the first time almost all of the Safe Zone facilitators, students, faculty, and staff, got together for a full day to talk about Safe Zone. The objective was to get everyone involved in Safe Zone together for a day to promote community building, feature student projects that came out of the Safe Zone Train-the-Trainer class, and to promote consistency in curriculum and logistics for facilitating trainings.

SUNY Geneseo Safe Zone internship program began - The Safe Zone internship was inspired by Dr. Jennifer Katz’s structure for peer mentoring through the Pathways Peer Advocacy program. The purpose of the Safe Zone internship was to allow student trainers to continue to engage in the program after the initial trainer course that would reflect on their transcripts rather than as an extracurricular activity. The internship program is also a way for students to take ownership of different areas of the program, such as curriculum development, and website content.

SUNY Geneseo Safe Zone Website is remodeled - The Safe Zone website was updated and remodeled into what it is today by Dan Jacques and Safe Zone facilitator interns Jessica Bansbach ‘20 and Vanessa Cepeda ‘19.


The first virtual Safe Zone training is held - When the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the nation and resulted in almost all college classes and activities to go virtual, the Safe Zone program was put on pause until a virtual Safe Zone training curriculum was created and piloted by Alice Rutkowski and student trainer Hannah Fahy ‘20.

Have any questions? Email safezone@geneseo.edu