The Clothes Closet at Cal Poly Pomona celebrated its 10th anniversary on April 20 with a virtual ceremony. University President Soraya M. Coley gave opening remarks for the event attended by student interns, staff, faculty, and the donors that have helped make this valuable resource available to students aspiring to launch their careers.
The service, which provides free professional attire for CPP students to be used for job interviews, conferences, and other professional events, has grown exponentially over the last decade, from a small collection of bags stored in a Career Center stock room to a robust boutique serving thousands of students annually.
Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated virtual instruction and remote work, the Clothes Closet quickly pivoted to a stipend program, helping students in need obtain gift cards to purchase professional clothing online. The Stipend Program has assisted 325 students and counting.
The continued success of the Clothes Closet was made possible by the leadership and dedication of Cheryl Love, career counselor and Clothes Closet coordinator. She quickly recognized its potential when joining the Career Center in 2014 and within a year had brought student staff onboard to help and established the Clothes Closet Advisory Board, a support team of campus and community partners to help sustain the donation-based service.
“The Clothes Closet is a wonderful example of the power of partnerships between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to help with students’ success. It is a shining example of the ‘Learn by Doing’ motto that makes the Cal Poly Pomona polytechnic advantage such an asset for CPP students,” said Love. “And this is the key to the growth and innovation that has occurred over the years.”
As the Clothes Closet grew through generous donations from the CPP community and beyond, a polytechnic partnership quickly emerged with the Apparel Merchandising and Management (AMM) program in the Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture, allowing students to officially intern at the Closet every semester – an opportunity that links them with key skills in their field.
“This internship has given me wonderful opportunities and experiences that will stick with me as I continue my professional career. We help make sure all students have the right tools and resources for success,” said junior Sydney Koslowski.
In addition to managing the day-to-day operations of the Closet, including inventory and marketing, interns produce a style guide and can provide styling sessions for those utilizing the Clothes Closet.
“The styling sessions have been a great way for me to not only connect with students but also instill what the Closet is doing by helping them feel confident for their next event, whether it’s an interview or graduation,” said senior Amanda O’Cleary.
For Zakiya Poole, second year master’s candidate and the Clothes Closet’s first graduate intern, the experience gained has been immeasurable.
“Pioneering this position has been a long and rewarding experience,” she said. “The role ranges from serving as an assistant manager, overseeing Closet interns, serving as project lead for an array of operations, serving as an advisory board member, overseeing marketing, and much more.”
For everything that has changed over ten years, one thing has always remained constant – the impact the Clothes Closet has on students. As the service grew in recognition, other institutions began reaching out for guidance to open their own version, including Cal State Fullerton, Mt. Sac Community College, UC Riverside, and Chapman University.
“Programs like the Clothes Closet are game changers for our campus, and each interaction holds the potential to dramatically raise the trajectory of our students,” said President Coley. “Thank you to all of the students, staff, interns, volunteers, supporters, and donors who have made this such an amazing success.”
As for the next ten years and beyond?
“The future looks bright,” said Love. “I see the collaboration between the AMM department and the closet going stronger with students helping it continue to be a world class service emulated by college campuses across the country and the program continuing to be an integral part of the CPP Basic Needs family, helping students regardless of their circumstances to put their best fit forward.”