Maria Garase, Ph.D., associate professor of Criminal Justice, incorporated a professional development unit into the Capstone/Senior Seminar in Criminal Justice course. The unit included résumé and cover letter writing, as well as job searches and a mock interview with a counselor at the Career Development Center.
Garase and the counselors began to notice that some students did not wear the recommended professional attire. She approached the issue carefully, and the students explained that they simply did not have the funds to purchase new clothing. As a result, the idea of the Professional Clothing Closet (PCC) was born, with the goal of helping students dress more professionally and feel more confident at their next interview.
“Initially, it was difficult to find space on campus to house the PCC. Also, we do not have a budget for the PCC, so we are operating solely on donations,” said Garase. “The clothing donations that we receive will determine what we have available to help our students with professional business attire for career-related events.”
The PCC’s inventory comes primarily from donations and is currently focused on male business attire. Donations can be brought to 121 Preston Hall. Depending on the inventory, students can have free access to one professional outfit that they can wear to any career-related activities: once taken from the PCC, the clothes do not need to be returned.
“This initiative truly embodies the core values of being socially merciful,” said Garase. “Something as simple as having access to business attire and appropriate suiting options can help our students be confident as they go into their interviews and/or enter the workforce as a proud Mercyhurst University student.”
In Fall 2017, PCC partnered with Dress for Success Erie, an affiliate of Dress for Success Worldwide and Mercy Center for Women, to give female students the same professional suiting services, free of charge. Garase is the Mercyhurst point of contact for this program, which is much more than simply giving back to the students.
“I hope the PCC receives a consistent stream of donations of business attire in all sizes and that students who are in need are able to have access to appropriate clothing for career-related events,” said Garase. “I may seek out external funding to help buy business attire or specific sizes of clothing that we have difficulty in securing.”
External funding may come in the form of a QuickStarter campaign. Garase also encourages Mercyhurst alumni, staff and faculty around the Erie community to donate to the PCC.
To the students, this is also an exciting opportunity to really prepare for their future professional career.
Lucy Belleau, sophomore Spanish Education major, is particularly excited about the PCC.
“This is a fantastic program that not only exemplifies the Mercyhurst core values, but also shows the steps the faculty is willing to make to support their students,” Belleau said.