Meet Our Team

Board Of Directors


Nate Monson
(He, Him, His) serves as Executive Director of Iowa Safe Schools – a position he has held since 2007 following the passage of the state’s anti-bullying law and extension of the Iowa Civil Rights Act to include gender identity and sexual orientation.
Iowa Safe Schools was founded in 2002 with assistance from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to address the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and queer (LGBTQ) youth in the state of Iowa. Iowa Safe Schools works to create safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for youth through education, outreach, victim services, and advocacy efforts. Under Nate’s leadership, Iowa Safe Schools is now one of the largest statewide LGBTQ organizations in the country.
Nate’s commitment to positively impact the lives of others is also reflected in his service to the community on a variety of boards and commissions. In 2010, Nate was appointed to the Iowa Department of Human Right’s Board by Governor Chet Culver. Nate serves as the Chair of the Iowa Pride PAC, the state’s LGBTQ political action committee.
Nate has won several awards for his work including the Distinguished Alumni Rising Star Award from Clarke University and the 2018 Pride Man of the Year from Capital City Pride.
Nate is a graduate of Clarke University where he received a B.A. in History. He is a sought after speaker on school climate, culture, and LGBTQ issues around the country serving as a keynote speaker for conferences, colleges, and corporations. Nate recently spoke for a Tedx Talk titled the Post-Modern Queer Youth Experience which can be found here:
Nate and his best-dog friend Lucy live in Des Moines.


To contact Nate click here 

Mark Busch (He, Him, His) is the Director of Education at Iowa Safe Schools. Mark empowers educators, youth-serving professionals, and community advocates across the state to create safe, supportive, and welcoming environments for LGBTQ people. Mark oversees the Safe Schools Academy, a catalog of continuing education coursework on developing inclusive curriculum, advocating for underrepresented populations, and implementing anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies and practices. Mark also coordinates the Iowa Anti-Bullying Symposium, Trans Education Summit, and Iowa Sexual Violence Symposium. He recently published the “Schoolwide Pride Guide: Elementary Edition,” a collection of age-appropriate lessons an activities focused on LGBTQ topics. A proud graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Mark earned his Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry Teaching in 2011 and Master of Arts in Science Education in 2018.
In his free time, Mark enjoys jogging on the metro trails, roaming the aisles of home improvement stores, and surveying the local cuisine. Feel free to reach out to Mark to grab a cup of coffee and strike up an exciting conversation!


To contact Mark click here or call 515-681-1359

Mark Turnage (He, Him, His) is the Registrar and Office Manager for Iowa Safe Schools, where he provides help with transcripts, technical support for participants of the Safe Schools Academy, registration for the annual Iowa Governor’s Conference, and coordinating local community fundraising events since 2014. Mark graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2008 and has been involved in community events and advocacy-related fundraising since moving to Des Moines in 2011.

The son of two teachers, Mark’s experience in both education and empowering youth expression includes three years as Pleasantville High School Fall Play Director, providing audio/technical support to high school entertainment and athletic programs, and partnering with local LGBT organizations and venues to promote the work of Iowa Safe Schools.

You can always find Mark at the midnight premiere of the latest Batman film, curating his comic book collection, playing the latest Metal Gear videogame, indulging his inner film geek, or working on writing the next great Batman story.

To contact Mark click here or call 515-381-0588

Connor Ferguson (He, Him, His) is the Communications Manager for Iowa Safe Schools. He studied at the University of Maine majoring in English (emphasis in Analytical Writing) and minoring in Creative Writing. He hopes to use communication opportunities to facilitate change and growth in the
LGBTQ+ community of Iowa.

Born and raised in Iowa, Connor began his college career at the University of Northern Iowa, then the University of Iowa, and ultimately finding the right academic fit at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine. In 2019 he presented “Diversifying Writing Centers: The Impact of Visibility and Accessibility” at the Northeast Writing Centers Association, a research project focused on diversity in academic settings such as Writing Centers; and “Queering the Fin de Siècle” through the McGillicuddy Humanities Center at the University of Maine, a fellowship project interrogating the erasure of the queer identities of Virginia Woolf and Wilfred Owen.

In his free time Connor likes to write creative fiction and fantasy, read as many books as possible, play the latest and greatest role-playing video games, build his vinyl record collection, engage in lively discussion, and hang out with his two cats (Mr. Darcy and Minna).

To contact Connor click here or call 515-971-3474

Joe Lockard-Nobile (He, Him, His) is the Development Associate for Iowa Safe Schools. Joe graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in Psychology and a minor in Speech Communications. He has spent most of his post-collegiate career working with, advocating for, and guiding youth through his roles of Special Education Teaching Associate at Smouse Opportunity School, Youth Care Worker at a residential facility, and as a Youth and Family Community Counselor. He has also worked with the LGBTQ+ community in his role as a Case Manager with The Project of Primary Health Care. Outside of work, he has helped with organizing the 2019 Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Symposium, volunteered at The Project (before his employment there), and hosted a philanthropy event to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital while in college. Joe is very passionate about helping others, equality, and LGBTQ+ issues, especially when intersected with youth. Joe looks forward to helping individuals support and cultivate their own passion for aiding LGBTQ+ youth in his new position.


Joe lives in Des Moines with his husband, James. Joe enjoys practicing meditation, indoor climbing, hiking, camping, reading, spending time with friends and family, and doing community service.

To contact Joe click here or call 515-689-9916

Damian J. Thompson (He, Him, His) is the Public Policy Manager at Iowa Safe Schools. Damian joins our team from the Office of the Governor, where he oversaw constituent outreach and planned special events. Before his tenure at the Office of the Governor, Damian worked at a bipartisan public relations and lobbying firm in Des Moines. He graduated cum laude from Drake University in 2017 with his Bachelor of Arts in Law, Politics & Society. While a student at Drake University, Damian was politically active, interning with Iowa Congressman David Young as well as at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement.

In his free time, Damian enjoys collecting antiques, watching classic films, listening to vinyl records, and avoiding hot beverages.

To contact Damian click here or call 515-238-1991

Jordan Mix (they/them) is the Education Coordinator at Iowa Safe Schools. Jordan graduated from Drake University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in law, politics, and society, and a minor in sociology. They also hold a graduate certificate in gender and sexuality studies from the University of North Carolina Charlotte.
While at Drake, Jordan started Iowa’s first prom for LGBTQ high school students, The Other Prom, which has been held annually since 2014. They also took the lead in writing Drake University’s Transgender Inclusion Statement, and championed establishing gender neutral bathrooms on campus. Jordan approaches their work with a listening ear and an engaged heart. Their goal is to empower educators to best serve all students by examining how gender operates in all of our lives and understanding the unique needs of LGBTQ youth.
When they’re not working, you can find Jordan hiking with their wife, cheering on the U.S. women’s national soccer team, and honing their home barista skills.

To contact Jordan click here or call 515-381-0588

Lucy Monson (She, Her, Hers) is the Director of Human Relations at Iowa Safe Schools. Lucy received xer Paw.hD from Bark University in 2016, majoring in Barks & Sciences, and is committed to the pawformance of every staff member on the Iowa Safe Schools team. Lucy hopes to bring fresh breath to the organization, and take a bite out of homophobia and transphobia across the state.

To contact Lucy click here or call 515-381-0588