Friday, June 25, 2021
  Community, Around Campus

By Victoria Brito Morales

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – As Pride Month begins to wind down, UTRGV Allies wants LGBTQIA+ individuals in the university community to know they are valued members of the Vaquero family, and always have a safe place to ask questions, be vulnerable and learn throughout the year with its Safe Zone Allies. 

Safe Zone Allies at UTRGV are staff, faculty, students, or campus partners who provide support and assistance to the LGBTQIA+ community. To be an official ally at UTRGV, these individuals must complete Ally Safe Zone training.

“The UTRGV Ally Safe Zone training aims to create better spaces for students, faculty and staff,” said Aaron Hinojosa, program coordinator for the UTRGV Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

The training provides attendees with content and guiding tools pulled from the Safe Zone Project to educate faculty, staff and students on the importance of allyship. The Safe Zone Project is a national movement that encourages individuals to learn about LGBTQIA+ identities, gender, sexuality, and examines prejudice, assumptions, and privilege within the community.

“We talk about the importance of pronouns, the difference between sex and gender, LGBTQIA+ history and tips and strategies on how to be a better ally, and we also make recommendations on how to communicate your allyship,” Hinojosa said.

The training also includes highlighting the added challenges that LGBTQIA+ individuals from other marginalized groups may encounter which includes race/ethnicity, immigration status, and class.

“We have learned a lot from history. Although we have come a long way there's still a lot more work that needs to be done to help build stronger, better, and more supportive and inclusive communities, specifically within the LGBTQIA+ community,” Hinojosa said. “So, considering other different identities of individuals, this kind of training and effort is needed, not just at UTRGV but in other organizations as well.”

Dr. Douglass Stoves, dean of Student Rights and Responsibilities at UTRGV, said the university is committed to providing an environment that is diverse and inclusive.

“I am proud that our Center for Diversity and Inclusion has taken a leadership role in this area,” Stoves said. “The Ally Safe Zone is a commitment that we have made to make sure that we are providing those who choose to participate with the knowledge and tools they need to support members of our community that identify as LGBTQIA+. It is important that all students know they are welcomed, affirmed and valued at UTRGV.”

Since 2019, more than 250 students, faculty and staff from the UTRGV community have participated in this training, which is held throughout the year and is currently being conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those interested in becoming a UTRGV Safe Zone Ally, there are two training opportunities this summer – June 30 and July 28. 

For more information or to request department trainings, contact Hinojosa at


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.