A new Southeastern initiative is outfitting students for career success.
For many college students in the U.S., financial worries are an everyday burden. And once all the costs associated with earning a degree are paid, both monetary and in terms of hard work and time, there can still be one more barrier to landing that first big job—the need for professional clothing.
According to a 2016 report from CareerBuilder, over a quarter of surveyed job seekers spent more than $200 on interview attire and other related expenses. While this might not feel like a significant hit to someone who is already in a financially stable position and able to invest in finding the next step in their career, it can hold back a student or recent graduate trying to progress on their path.
Upon identifying this problem, Southeastern—which has also been ranked as the number one university in Louisiana for least student loan debt, thanks in part to the Southeastern Promise, textbook rental program, and advanced scholarship opportunities—developed the Lion Pride Career Closet to meet this need. The Southeastern Wesley Foundation, Southeastern Foundation, and the Office of Career Services partnered together to provide professional outfits to members of the campus community.
“It’s something we all feel very strongly about—helping students be as successful as possible in every way,” said Melissa Guerra, associate director of the Southeastern Wesley Foundation. “We all know that professional clothing is expensive, but it’s especially so for college students who are barely making ends meet with part-time jobs. We wanted to be able to provide this service to help the Lion Nation look and feel confident going into a job interview, career fair, or even giving a class presentation after all the hard work they’ve been putting into getting their degree.”
The Lion Pride Career Closet was soft-launched in May 2021. It is designed as a boutique-style shopping experience and is currently located in room 2017 of McGehee Hall. Students are able to make an appointment via sluwesley.org to assemble their new work-ready wardrobe at the Career Closet. The initiative is being managed by Wesley, a United Methodist-sponsored campus ministry open to all students and housed across the street from Southeastern’s campus. Wesley Foundations are located at countless universities across North America and the United Kingdom. Along with the Career Closet, Southeastern’s Wesley Foundation also oversees the Southeastern Food Pantry; provides free lunch every Wednesday; operates a non-profit coffee shop, Kairos Koffeehouse; houses up to 12 students at a time; and provides student work and social opportunities.
“We always say we exist to serve the students, faculty, and staff of Southeastern body, mind, and soul, and this is such an amazing and much-needed way for us to do that,” said Guerra.
Wesley collects items for the Career Closet and then organizes and stores them at the Wesley Center until they are able to be displayed in the Career Closet. Donations of gently used professional clothing, shoes, and accessories for both men and women are requested to help serve as many students as possible. Drop-off sites are available on campus at the Southeastern Alumni Center and the Wesley Center, as well as across the region at Amite City Chamber of Commerce, Livingston Parish Literacy Center, Tangipahoa Chamber of Commerce, Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce, FUMC Covington, St Tammany Chamber of Commerce in Covington, and the St Tammany Chamber of Commerce in Slidell.
“Students should know someone cares about them and their success, not just their academic success but their all-around success in life,” said Guerra. “After four or more years of hard work, clothing should not stop you from reaching that next step in your life.”
By Sheri Gibson