CLEMSON — Students from Clemson University now have access to a professional wardrobe to aid in the career preparation process through the introduction of the school’s first “Clothes Closet.” The initiative is the direct result of a collaborative effort between Clemson Undergraduate Student Government (CUSG) and the Center for Career and Professional Development.
The closet is located in room 156 of the CUSG offices in the Edgar A. Brown University Union. It began late this fall by appointment, with hours of operation from noon-2 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday each week.
“Students can come in, take the clothes home and we will not ask for anything back,” said Caren Kelley-Hall, associate director of Clemson’s University Professional Internship and Co-Op (UPIC) program. “If a student has an upcoming interview or networking event or company function, they’ll have access to an array of clothes and professional wardrobe.”
The initiative dates to the spring of 2017, when CUSG Senate President-elect Leland Dunwoodie attended a career fair and began having conversations regarding what options were available to students who either did not have access to suitable interview attire or lacked the financial wherewithal to purchase clothes of their own.
In the fall of 2017, Dunwoodie presented the initiative to fellow senators and asked for someone to come forward and pursue the idea further. Morgan Weaver of Chapin and Katelyn Sutherland of Waxhaw, North Carolina, became the lead senators spearheading the project.
“Congratulations to Morgan and Katelyn, who have really seen this through from start to finish,” said Dunwoodie, who graduated in May 2018. “I think this project shows the potential our students have to make positive change on campus.”
Weaver and Sutherland applied for capital improvement funding and were allocated $10,000. The funds allowed student government and the career center to come together and decorate the closet and buy some starter clothing.
The need was further expedited when Kelley-Hall and the Center for Career and Professional Development held a “JCPenney Suit-Up Event” in Anderson on Aug. 26. The partnership offered students who presented a valid Clemson ID a 40 percent discount on apparel and shoes, in addition to a free mini-makeover and samples courtesy of Sephora.
“That helped us recognize there was a strong need,” she said. “We had over 500 students show up in line at the store in Anderson to get everything from ties, shirts, socks, dress suits and shoes — things to make them look their best.”
In addition to the initial funding, the Center for Career and Professional Development has solicited clothing donations from alumni, faculty and staff. Donation centers have been established at the Alumni Center and on the third floor of the Hendrix Student Center. Kelley-Hall said the closet is fully stocked, with another set of clothes ready to replenish it once the need arises.
Kelley-Hall said the ultimate desire is to open the closet five days a week. When the spring semester career fair comes around in January, the closet will have extended hours to be available to students for networking and interview opportunities.
Members of student government and the Center for Career and Professional Development came together last month to officially welcome the clothes closet with a formal ribbon-cutting inside student government headquarters. Kelley-Hall was joined by UPIC graduate assistant Olivia Fallen and career center graduate assistant Kelsey Wilkins, while student government was represented by Sutherland, Weaver, Student Senate President Christian Jones and Health and Human Services chair Mason Hammond.
Weaver said the closet’s benefit has already been seen, with approximately 20 students taking advantage of the wardrobe offerings in a short period of time.
“The fact we can create confidence in students is big,” she said. “We don’t want any student feeling they can’t go for a career or position because they don’t have the right clothing. To see the impact a dress or a suit can have on a student’s life is pretty amazing.”
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