Southeast Career Closet provides students with business attire at no charge

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — Southeast Missouri State University’s Career Closet, which offers free-to-take professional attire for students in need, has been abuzz, according to director of career services Dan Presson.

Located beneath Kent Library, adjacent to textbook rental and married with the on-campus food pantry, the closet provides students with the additional and oftentimes required “hire attire” for embarking on a new career.

Since last year, the pantry and closet have recorded nearly 400 visitors, Presson said.

The closet has been in existence for nearly two years, he said. What first sparked the program’s inception was, in part, Presson finding out about a nontraditional student who had to purchase new clothing before a job interview.

The student had only worked jobs that did not require a suit, Presson said. He said the student visited Presson’s office asking about suits. The next day, the student returned and told Presson he had just purchased new attire out-of-pocket.

“It just killed me that he had to spend his hard-earned money to find just an entry-level blazer,” Presson said. “So then, I put out a call to everybody on campus. ... I don’t want somebody to go into credit-card debt for a simple blazer for an interview.”

Presson reached out to faculty members for extra blazers and neckties for students in need.

And the donations flooded in, he said.

“Everybody on campus pitched in and started giving us stuff,” Presson said. “We’ve had faculty members, the day after they retire, they drop it all off - every suit, every necktie.”

Presson said the closet is paired with the campus’ food pantry because he doesn’t “want anybody to have to ask for help twice.”

“There’s no reason for that,” he said standing among donated shoes and neckties.”If you need food assistance or deodorant or something like that, it’s all together.”

If it fits, take it, Presson said. The item never needs to be returned. If the item is needed for an interview, it’s going to also be needed for the first couple of days of the internship, he added.

“We try to keep essential items (on hand),” he said, pulling a men’s blue blazer from a rack of several others, including full suits, men’s shirts and women’s blouses.

Business attire is expensive, Presson said, and he wants students to have the access to options that help them look professional, regardless of what they can afford.

Presson said the goal is to never single out anyone for being in a financial situation where they need help. And for that reason, students’ names aren’t logged.

“We just want to know that students are utilizing” he said.

The closet and food pantry are pieces to the career puzzle the career services department oversees. Presson said student assistance also helps with resumes and offers photographs for a student’s online portfolio.

The Career Closet and Redhawks Food Pantry are open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Presson said anyone interested in donating may visit room 57 in Academic Hall.