Friday, May 24, 2024

Centenary College opens Career Closet to assist students with professional clothing

by BIZ Magazine

SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary College’s Student Government Association (SGA) and the Office of Career Services have collaborated to create a Career Closet in Centenary’s Magale Library. The Career Closet offers professional clothing to students to help them feel confident when interviewing for jobs and internships. Beginning in fall 2023, the Career Closet will also offer free interview-readiness training and resume advice in collaboration with Centenary’s Career Services office and the College’s Learning Commons.

The Career Closet is accessible for students using wheelchairs and is designed to be inclusive of all socioeconomic backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities. As a student-led project, the Career Closet also emphasizes a “students-helping-students” approach and seeks to normalize the experience of giving and receiving help.

“The outside perception of Centenary is that every student here is rich and has a multitude of resources, but I know from speaking with students that is not the truth,” said Remi Miller, a senior majoring in political science and a senator serving on the SGA Institutional Affairs Committee. “I think that belief holds people back from getting their needs met, so I brought the idea up at our annual SGA retreat, where we were brainstorming different projects we could do to improve student life, and everyone thought it could be a great addition to our campus.”

Miller was instrumental in designing and launching the Career Closet, but she recognized that, as a senior, she needed to be intentional about forming partnerships and embedding the new venture into the institution in order to make the Career Closet sustainable after she graduates. Once all of the pieces were in place, she pitched the idea to her SGA colleagues and the organization voted to approve funding to support the new Career Closet.

“My process was centered around efficiency and keeping the entire project within the realm of Centenary faculty, staff, alumni, students, and organizations,” said Miller. “I want everyone to feel proud of what we have created together as Centenary community. The long-term goal is to eliminate the shame that often characterizes reaching out for help by giving students the chance to feel like they have a friend they can go to who understands their situation. That is why the interview-readiness tutors and most of the library staff assisting with the Career Closet are fellow students.”

The Career Closet can be accessed by students during regular library hours, and library staff help to reorganize the closet as needed and take special requests. Students have the option to take and keep clothes from most of the racks or borrow clothes from the designated Borrowing Rack. Once students have decided what clothes to check out, they are asked to log their visit and their chosen items in the Career Closet Checkout Book. A student may keep the borrowed clothes for up to two weeks before they need to be washed and returned. The SGA’s Institutional Affairs Committee washes clothes on a regular basis to make sure that everything stays clean. As a student’s return date nears, the library will send a reminder email, similar to the reminders sent about returning library materials. Students can also request a free professional headshot session through Centenary’s Marketing & Communication office.

In addition to the internal collaboration with Career Services, the Learning Commons, and Magale Library, and Marketing & Communication, Miller connected with Out of the Closet, an organization run by Centenary alumna Emily Hamann ’16 that provides clothes for unhoused individuals and to the LGBTQIA+ community. Out of the Closet donated some of the initial clothes to establish Centenary’s Career Closet, and Miller liked the idea of introducing current students to a community organization that can provide them further support if needed. Jessie Bonnevier, another Centenary alumna who recently started her own creative services company, created a beautiful custom mural for the Career Closet to attract students into the space.

“The Career Closet is an excellent way for Centenary College to support our students as they prepare for career fairs, interviews, networking, and other work-related opportunities,” said Debbie Bury, director of career services and internships at Centenary. “SGA has set up the Closet like a boutique, encouraging students to come and browse the selection of items.  They will eventually be able to peruse our LookBook with suggestions of professional styles for all orientations if they need help putting together outfits.”

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