The Professional Clothing Closet had its grand opening last Monday. Located in room 103 on the third floor of the Yawkey Center for Student Services, the closet allows Boston University students to select up to four items from the closet to keep, free of charge.
Tima Dasouki, a senior in the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, set to work on the project after realizing the costly demands unpaid internships can have on low-income students — especially those who are first-generation like herself.
“Unpaid internships can really take a toll on students,” Dasouki said. “There’s transportation costs, there’s costs of not being able to work a different job while you’re working that internship and then there’s the clothing cost.”
Dasouki said she collaborated with both the Newbury Center and the BU Center for Career Services to bring the project to life, recruiting volunteers and raising over $20,000 in funds.
The Professional Clothing Closet received all its inventory — such as suits and similar professional attire — through donations and clothing drives.
Addye Buckley-Burnell, executive director at the Center for Career Development, said the closet ensures that students who lack funds to buy new professional attire will not miss important career opportunities, such as interviews.
“There’s always a stereotype that students, especially at a private university, have unlimited funds, and I think that that is a stereotype that we need to overlook very quickly,” Buckley-Burnell said.
Newbury Center director Maria Erb said she was a “cheerleader and encourager” for the project because she believes it is important for the Newbury Center to serve first-generation undergraduate, graduate and professional students.
“Our first-gen students have drive, ambition, resilience and that [Dasouki] was able to take this idea and manifest it into something that will be a legacy of hers after graduation,” Erb said.
A first-generation college graduate herself, Erb said she was one of the many impacted by the costliness of professional clothing.
“Being able to provide this service to our students and to provide it for free just to me is a symbol of how we take down barriers to support first-generation college students and students from low-income backgrounds,” Erb said.
Genesis Velasco, a sophomore in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and secretary of the BU chapter of the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership, said Dasouki interviewed chapter members to get an understanding of the need for a professional closet.
“We’ve been following the journey throughout the entire implementation stage, so today, it was really nice to finally be able to see all that hard work finally come to fruition,” Velasco said.
According to BU’s 2019 Annual Report, 19.6% of incoming freshmen identified as low-income students.
“To go into an interview, the first thing that is noticed is your appearance,” Dasouki said. “I wanted to make sure that students feel empowered when they walk into any interview or job opportunity.”
SAR junior Izzy Yap said she attended the grand opening hoping to see what professional and gender-affirming clothing options are available.
“It’s really important that students have access to clothing so they can be dressed for success and not let that be a hindrance to their career advancements,” Yap said.
Buckley-Burnell said clothing will be continually recycled on an ongoing donation basis. Organizers will release more information on the location of collection bins and future clothing drives in due time.