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History and Mission

    VT Safe Zone

Established in 1998, the Safe Zone program was created as a collaborative effort between the Dean of Students; the HokiePRIDE; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Caucus (LGBT Caucus); and the Office for Equity and Inclusion (formerly the Office of Equal Opportunity).

Now, coordinated through Multicultural Programs and Services, the Safe Zone program exists to educate the Virginia Tech community on topics related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. Safe Zones are members of the program who are committed to providing a more inclusive and accepting environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities and their allies.

To be Safe Zone certified, participants must first complete Safe Zone 101 and one additional break out session. Information about all sessions are available below.

Objectives of the Safe Zone Program

  1. To identify a network of allies who are concerned, empathetic, and knowledgeable about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender questions.
  2. To provide evidence of the support of LGBTQ people and their allies within the Virginia Tech community by posting a sign as tangible evidence of that support.
  3. To reduce the fear of reprisal and discrimination by LGBTQ people and their allies within the Virginia Tech community.
  4. To assist LGBTQ and allied students in achieving their educational goals by creating an environment in which they can be themselves.
Safe Zone 101

This session is for individuals interested in learning more about the LGBTQ Community.

Topics addressed in the first training workshop session include:

  • Common LGBTQ Terms
  • Sexual Orientation vs. Sexual Identity
  • The Coming Out Process
  • Experiences of LGBTQ Individuals
  • How You Can Be A Safe Zone Ally

This session is required for everyone interested in joining the Safe Zone Program.

It is a requirement to attend this session prior to signing up for any following sessions.

Transgender 101

Many people hold common misconceptions about people who identify as transgender, transexual, genderqueer, or in some way that is unique with regard to sex/gender and identity. Moreover, few people in the majority throughout our society realize that they have a cisgender/cisexual identity that affords certain unearned privileges. This presentation provides an overview of gender diversity, and a welcome forum for exploring new and unfamiliar concepts. Those looking to strengthen their work as allies are strongly encouraged to attend.

This session is led by Safe Zone trainer Christian Matheis.

New River Valley Resources

This session will cover the resources and "safe spaces" in and around Blacksburg. Religious centers, medical practitioners, and organizations that highlight or take LGBTQ individuals into account will be the focus. This session will also touch on the difficulty of finding resources and support for the trans* community as well. This session is intended to provide individuals with the tools they need to be successful and helpful Safe Zones for individuals with needs greater than those provided by Virginia Tech.

This session is led by LGBTQ Coordinator

Suicide Watch and Prevention

The Raft Crisis Hotline is a free service offering suicide intervention, empathy, and support to residents of the New River Valley. Raft is a program of New River Valley Community Services and has been serving the local community for more than 40 years. A majority of the hotline's volunteers have traditionally been students at Virginia Tech and an official partnership was formed through former Raft Hotline Manager Brittany Mabry and Virginia Tech's LGBTQ Coordinator Catherine Cotrupi to offer suicide watch and prevention training to Virginia Tech Safe Zones.

This session is led by Raft Crisis Hotline Manager Rebecca Bryce.

LGBT History

In the world today we hear about people coming out or being outted, we hear the debate about gay marriage, we hear the politicians pander to different groups using LGBT rights as a polarizing strategy, but none of this is new. This session will look at the history of the LGBT community, especially in Europe and the United States, hitting important moments in the struggle for equal rights. It will look at how homosexuality by definition has changed and how it is twisted. It will look at key moments that transgender and intersex individuals have faced. Hopefully you will walk away with a better understanding of how LGBT individuals have impacted history, then and now.

This session is led by Safe Zone trainer Ross Edmonds.

Legal & Compliance

This session will cover key court decisions that have defined the LGBTQ legal environment including the topics of gender expression, marriage, adoption, and employment rights. Additionally, we will discuss how these laws directly impact Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff, and what steps Safe Zones must take when these rights are violated. Information on Title IX compliance and reporting information relevant to the Cleary Act will also be a focus.

This session is led by Safe Zone trainer Amanda Morris.

Trainer Bios

Rebecca Bryce

Rebecca Bryce is the coordinator of the Raft Crisis Hotline where she utilizes her clinical and training backgrounds as well as her personal experience of surviving two suicides within her family. She also advises a student group on campus. She received her bachelor and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Missouri, Columbia, with an emphasis in child welfare, focusing on special issues of older youth, including homelessness, aging out of the foster care system and LGBTQ issues.

Bryce has done work in areas of therapy and case management for homeless youth at a transitional living program as well as being a crisis shelter coordinator. Bryce has developed and led multiple therapy and support groups as well as trainings in positive youth development. After moving to Virginia in 2010, Bryce began serving the New River Valley as an in-home clinician and Medicaid assessor through the local community services agency.


Rebecca Bryce

Ross C. Edmonds

Ross Edmonds is a web designer, programmer, and software manager in the University Libraries Information Technologies and Services Department. He became a Safe Zone and Multicultural Fellow in 2005. He has served many years as the LGBT Caucus representative on the Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity (CEOD). He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis on social inequality and a minor in creative writing. Ross has been with Virginia Tech since 1995 and worked at University Libraries since 1997.


Ross Edmonds

Laura Laughlin

Laura Laughlin serves as one of the residential learning coordinators for Fraternity and Sorority Life. In this role, Laughlin is responsible for the day-to-day administration, supervision, and management of the Oak Lane Community, which consists of 19 fraternity and sorority houses. Laughlin also co-supervises and evaluates 18 house supervisors and a graduate assistant while serving as a liaison between Fraternity and Sorority Life and Housing and Residence Life. Additionally, Laughlin serves as the advisor for the Panhellenic Council.

Laughlin holds a master’s degree in college student affairs administration from the University of Georgia and a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. Laughlin’s professional memberships include the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA), and Chi Omega Fraternity.

Laughlin’s top five strengths are empathy, developer, connectedness, includer, and adaptability, which reflect her passion for creating a welcoming environment for all people at Virginia Tech.



Chad Mandala

Chad Mandala serves as one of the residential learning coordinators for Fraternity and Sorority Life. In this role, Mandala is responsible for the day-to-day administration, supervision, and management of the Oak Lane Community, which consists of 19 fraternity and sorority houses. Mandala also co-supervises and evaluates 18 house supervisors and an assistant residential learning coordinator while serving as a liaison between Fraternity and Sorority Life and Housing and Residence Life. Additionally, Mandala serves as the adviser to the Multicultural Greek Council, Greeks Giving Back, and the Order of Omega while with working closely with Phase IV of Oak Lane. Prior to his work at Virginia Tech, Mandala served as the graduate assistant for the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities at Florida State University.

Mandala holds a master's degree in higher education administration from Florida State University and a bachelor's degree in English and theater studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Mandala's professional memberships include the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA), the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA), and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).



Christian Matheis

Christian Matheis is a doctoral student at Virginia Tech, studying ethics and political philosophy in the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought (ASPECT). He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in applied ethics with minors in ethnic studies and sociology, both from Oregon State University. His professional history includes work as a community organizer, human relations facilitator, university faculty, consultant, and travel agent. His research interests include ethics, political philosophy, epistemology, philosophies of community, philosophies of liberation in Latin American thought, feminist critical social theory, gender & sexuality studies, narrative theory, community organizing, activism, and pedagogy.


Chrisian Matheis

Amanda Morris

Amanda Morris is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Virginia Tech. She teaches undergraduate analytical chemistry, graduate electrochemistry, and graduate spectroscopy courses in addition to conducting independent research in the area of solar energy conversion. Morris became a Safe Zone trainer in the spring of 2012. She currently facilitates both the Safe Zone 101 and Legal and Compliance sections.


Amanda Morris

John Gray Williams

John Gray is a career advisor in Career Services, where he advises students of all majors, delivers career-related programming, assists the university’s co-op and internship program, and manages the university’s career library. He received his master's degree in counseling in higher education from the University of Delaware in 2012, a bachelor's degree in public & urban affairs, and a bachelor's degree in geography from Virginia Tech, both in 2007. He has long been an outspoken advocate and activist in the LGBTQ community, both at Virginia Tech as an undergraduate student, and now as a faculty member. He has long been fascinated with the queer experience, queer theory, and the intersectionality of identities. He is also a self-identified map geek, enjoys traveling, and loves road trips with a passion (having been on three cross-country road trips, and visited 47 states!).



Kevin Wogenrich

Kevin Wogenrich serves as one of the residential learning coordinators for the Lee Hall community for Housing and Residence Life. In this position, he oversees and supports a community of over 800 residents in four living programs that come together under the name inVenTs. He also supervises twenty resident advisors and together they are responsible for the growth and building of relationships with students outside of the classroom.

He holds a master’s degree in student personnel administration from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, as well as a master’s degree in computer science – graphic design and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Previously, Wogenrich served as a complex coordinator in the Office of Residential Life at the State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, a resident director at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and a resident advisor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He has also taught UNIV 2394: Introduction to Residential Communities and Leadership and is currently teaching a recitation for LDRS 2014: Principles of Peer Leadership.

Wogenrich’s professional passions include the leadership growth and realization of potential in students which is supported by a focus on student engagement, inclusion, and the usage of technology to reach a new generation.


Kevin Wogenrich


Register for Safe Zone program

If you have trouble registering please email


Multicultural Programs and Services is excited to announce the launch of a new Safe Zone registration system. This new system acts as a centralized location that allows those interested in Safe Zone to register for courses like Safe Zone 101, Trans 101, and LGBTQ History (among others). View currently offered courses and register at

When you log in with your Virginia Tech PID and password, you will be able to view available Safe Zone sessions and register for the subject in which you have the most interest.  If you do not have a Virginia Tech PID, please contact Multicultural Programs and Services so we can setup special access for you.

As MPS and Safe Zone move forward, this new system will be able to track course history and provide a transcript of completed courses. The system is in its infancy, and we are working to import paper-based data into the new system.  Therefore, you may need to register again if your data has not been imported yet.  We apologize for this inconvenience. Should you have any concerns or trouble navigating the system, please contact Mark Smiley, Assistant Director in MPS, at 540-231-8584 or We can’t wait to see you in our Safe Zone sessions.

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