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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Career Closet: combating clothing insecurity on campus

The Career Closet is located inside the Women’s Center in St. Albert’s Annex behind 40 Lapsley Lane. PHOTO: KELLY SHANNON ’24/THE HAWK

Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) co-president Maddie DeMarco ’22 is using her position in multiple campus organizations to address basic and food needs insecurity. Her latest project is the newly opened Career Closet.

“Back toward the end of last semester, I noticed that there was a fundamental gap in students being able to apply to jobs and interview for internships because they have a lack of access to professional wear,” DeMarco said.

The Career Closet, officially opened on Sept. 7, is a place for those facing clothing insecurity to obtain professional attire. The Career Closet has all of the clothing a person would need to complete a professional outfit, and there is clothing for anyone to wear.

“Not having access to any professional clothes was a barrier to anybody’s ability to present themselves professionally. Or, in some cases maybe even decline an interview because they just didn’t feel that they would be able to present themselves professionally,” said Trish Shafer, executive director of the Career Development Center.

In recent years, Shafer, along with the American Marketing Association, ran a biannual pop-up shop around the time of the career fair each semester. This pop-up shop was held in the Career Development Center and consisted of a rack of professional clothing.

DeMarco wanted to find a more permanent way to combat clothing insecurity on campus.

Her idea for the Closet originated during HawkHUB meetings, a club DeMarco worked to create in Spring 2021.

HawkHUB is a resource center for members of St. Joe’s to help combat basic needs and food insecurity. Once this resource center was started, DeMarco was interested in finding a way to extend the mission to include clothing.

“In [HawkHUB] meetings, we were talking about the need for career focused clothing, especially as our students prepare for internships, practicums or even their first employment,” said Nicole Stokes, Ph.D., associate provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, who worked with HawkHUB. “Building a career wardrobe can be expensive. We wanted to provide that service, so that’s how the conversation began.”

DeMarco works in the Women’s Center, where she recognized that there was a space in the building that was not being used and saw the opportunity for a permanent location. She pitched her idea for a more permanent clothing opportunity to Shafer, who was eager to collaborate.

“From there, she informed a team of staff that she works with,” DeMarco said. “Then, I came up with having WLI, HawkHUB and the Women’s Center to collaborate [with].”

Once this project was set in motion, part of the budget for the Women’s Center was used to do carpentry work for the closet, according to Stokes.

“We did a lot of the work over the summer with the intention of the closet opening for the fall,” Stokes said. “We’re very excited to see how it’s all come together.”

Over the summer, the Career Closet started receiving a lot of donations from faculty, staff and alumni, according to DeMarco.

“I put an announcement on the university calendar, and the Career Development Center also sent out an announcement to alumni. Most of our donations have been from alumni, which is really cool,” DeMarco said. “Other donations have been from students and faculty that just have old clothes that they don’t wear anymore. A lot of the clothes still have tags on them.”

The Career Closet is also sponsored by Target.

“Target graciously offered to give some gift cards to supply things that we might need for the closet such as hangers, organizers, bins, anything that we might need to support it,” Stokes said.

The money has also been used to supply articles of clothing that have not been donated and were missing, according to DeMarco.

The first day the closet was opened, there were five visitors, which was very exciting for DeMarco.

“I just want to help one person,” DeMarco said. “I think that small victories are really key in fighting insecurity.”

Stokes’ hope is that students utilize the Career Closet without feeling a sense of judgment.

“It’s clothing that if it doesn’t have a life in someone else’s closet anymore, it can belong to you and have a new life in your closet,” Stokes said. “That’s the purpose of it. It’s for us as a community to come together and provide a need that needs to be met. So, I’m hoping students will see it for that and not from the perspective of judging.”

The Career Closet is located in the Women’s Center and is open weekdays 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Donations can be dropped off in the black bin inside the Women’s Center.

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