Preparing for an important presentation or going on a job interview can be nerve-wracking experiences all on their own. However, these opportunities can seem especially intimidating to students who do not have access to professional clothing.
For this reason, the Professional Clothing Closet (PCC) was established at Mercyhurst in 2017 by Maria L. Garase, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
The PCC seeks to provide students in need with access to professional business attire for interviews, career fairs and other important career development opportunities.
“I wouldn’t want someone to lose out on an opportunity because they cannot afford or do not have access to professional clothing,” Garase said.
She had heard of other colleges starting similar initiatives and wanted to give the opportunity to Mercyhurst students as well. Since its conception in 2017, Garase has been able to secure space for the closet at the Mercyhurst Erie campus and helped students select appropriate clothing for their job interviews. She has also been able to organize clothing drives with the school.
Garase’s vision for the PCC goes beyond helping students look prepared for interviews and other opportunities, but it helps to build confidence and professionalism.
“Something as simple as having access to appropriate suiting options can help students be confident as they go into their interviews and/or enter the workforce as a proud Mercyhurst University student,” Garase said.
The PCC is available to all students, but most especially those in need. These students may have been referred by various campus offices such as the Career Development Center, Academic Support, Campus Ministry or their own faculty advisers. When a student takes clothes from the PCC, they do not need to be returned; they are that student’s property.
“Although dependent upon the PCC’s donation inventory and sizes available, we hope to give students free access to one professional outfit that they can wear to career-related activities,” Garase said.
Mercyhurst recently became a referral partner with Dress For Success Erie (DFSE), an affiliate of Dress For Success Worldwide and a program of the Mercy Center for Women, in fall 2017. If any female students are in need of their professional suiting services, Garase is the point of contact from Mercyhurst at firstname.lastname@example.org. This service is also free of charge to those in need.
The PCC project welcomes student volunteers who would want to coordinate a professional clothing drive on campus or to coordinate with their friends and family and bring the donations in. Garase also encourages students with a good fashion sense to help coordinate outfits for a “look book” to allow students who use the PCC to see exactly what the closet has available.
“This is an ongoing initiative. Clothing is accepted year-round,” Garase said. “We do collect business attire for both men and women; however, since women have access to the DFSE program, our main focus is on men’s business attire. Clothing that is donated but that isn’t specifically business attire will be donated to local nonprofit agencies.”
Donations are accepted in 121 Preston Hall. Contact Garase to arrange a drop off day and time