Closet From Home: Santa Monica College Business department gives students their suits

For individuals pursuing a career in business, professionalism is essentially important. However, many college students may find it difficult to afford a suit after paying for their tuition, textbooks, and other daily needs. Eight years ago the Santa Monica College Business Administration started the Career Closet. A program that provides suits to SMC Business students in need for any business related event. Whether it's for a networking event, internship, career days, or an interview, they wanted to give students an opportunity to look their best.

Many of it’s clothing, such as tuxedos, dresses, jewelry and shoes, were donated by the faculty and staff, business advisory board, but recently they have been receiving donations from the community as well.

The idea for the Career Closet first came to Patricia Halliday, accounting professor at SMC, in the fall of 2005.

When one of her students came up to her, intrigued by her professional attire, Halliday went home and found two suits in her closet that she did not use and gave one of them to her student.

When Halliday then asked her student how the suit fitted and the student replied that when she put the blazer on she felt like she could do anything.

The Career Closet has helped students in many different ways. Not only do the program give them the chance to look professional in business related activities. Some students were able to get hands-on experience about the business industry by applying the Career Closet as part of their education.

One business professor at SMC who is also an important contributor to the program, Lorrie Ivas, got her students to use the Career Closet as a real-life example of merchandizing and advertising as part of her curriculum.

According to Halliday, the students would design flyers to spread the word about the program. As for the closet itself, which started with stacked boxes of donated clothes, was redecorated by Ivas' class to resemble closer to that of a retail store. They neatly organized the clothes and shoes on racks in a small room on the second floor of the SMC Business building.

Ivas says that she has had students pass by the Career Closet while she is working and thank her. She also had curious students stopping with widened eyes to ask her if the clothes are for them. “It is so heartwarming to see that just one piece of clothing can actually change a student's outlook, add confidence, or just feel a part of a family,” says Ivas.

Joy Tucker, the business administrator at SMC, said that the Career Closet is a good program for students who wish “to take advantage of professional workshops” but do not have the materials to do so. “We have that resource for you,” she said.