On Friday Sep. 22 at noon, the student body was invited to the Career Clothing Closet for an hour-long open house event. Only two or three minutes in, Lattimore 124 was full of students admiring the clothing on the racks, and there was excited chatter from the sound of friends helping each other decide what pieces to take. Once a student was satisfied with their choice, they showed their pieces to staff members from the Greene Center, who then gave them a teal plastic bag to carry the merchandise, and then they were on their way.
The Career Clothing Closet boasts a diverse and robust selection which includes: blouses, button-down shirts, skirts, slacks, blazers, ties, shoes, bags, and jewelry in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Everything from the Career Closet is completely free, and you get to keep it in your closet forever. But where do all of the items come from? How is the Greene Center able to give them away, free of charge?
According to Jodyi Wren, Executive Director and Assistant Dean of the Greene Center, and Christina Pero, the Employer and Alumni Experiences Manager, the Clothing Closet is completely donation based, with many board members, faculty, staff, and University community members providing contributions.
The “most prolific donor” is none other than Gwen M. Greene ‘65, the namesake of the career center. Greene, former vice president of JP Morgan & Sterns and a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, graduated from the University in 1965, and has a long, rich history of giving back to the community. The Clothing Closet is relatively new to the University — previous executive director (and current Deputy to the President) Joe Testani gave the first pitch for the program, and the closet opened its doors in April 2019. Between those two events, a lot of behind the scenes work had to occur to bring the concept to life.
For Pero, her job required in-depth research on how to best instantiate the program, as well as securing the physical space on campus and marketing the program to potential donors.
The pandemic proved difficult to navigate for many on-campus programs, but for the Career Closet, there were some positive effects. Due to many companies shifting away from in-person work, the number of professional clothes donations increased. However, the 2022-2023 academic year is when the closet came back in full force. According to Wren and Pero, almost 300 students have utilized the Closet’s resources since its start!
The University is certainly not the only college that has a program like this. Pero clarified that “a lot of schools would have a very small supply of clothing, [such as] some ties, [and] some jackets,” but UR’s is unique in its variety of clothing, its dressing rooms, and the fact that students are allowed to keep the clothes.
The Greene Center has many other wonderful opportunities to offer besides the Career Closet and advising services. For example, there is funding for students to be able to take on opportunities related to career growth, and there has been a lot of work on recalibrating the center’s relationship with corporate businesses in order to enable more students to have a smoother transition into the financial world.
For more information on the Greene Center, please visit https://careereducation.rochester.edu. Appointments to view the Career Clothing Closet can be made through Handshake.