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Career Closet to Help Students Look Professional, Authentic

When venturing out into the professional world, not every college student can just go into their closet and pull out an appropriate wardrobe. That is why Drew Genova, MA ’22 created the Career Closet.

“The standard career closet provides access based upon needs,” said Genova, Assistant Director of Career Access & Equity. “Emerson’s Career Closet is not just providing access with a socioeconomic lens. It’s an identity lens, with an eye for a wardrobe that better fits them.”

Genova started their transition while attending Emerson, and navigated what it meant to wear clothing in the workplace.

Drew Genova MA ’22

“Our students who go into production or creative writing may think they need a suit, but it’s not typical to walk into those realms wearing suits,” said Genova. “How can you be authentic to yourself? You don’t need to dress in a certain way, or a Western way to be a professional. It’s about breaking down the stereotypes of career clothing. You don’t want to compromise yourself to fit into a norm.”

Opening March 4, the Career Closet, a partnership between the Career Development Center and Hub for Inclusive Visionary Engagement (HIVE), will invite any student, regardless of economic status, to come and take clothing and accessories to use as professional attire. While students are welcome to return clothing, it is intended for them to keep the outfits.

The Office of Sustainability is also helping by providing things such as detergent, hangers, clothing racks, and additional items needed for a closet to function.

Crystal Gomez
Crystal Gomez MFA ’24

Crystal Gomez, MFA ’24, Program Manager for HIVE, also wanted to create a Career Closet, and reached out to Genova. The Career Closet is located in Gomez’s office at the ground level in the Tufte, and she is doing the day-to-day management of the closet. Both Genova and Gomez stressed the importance of the closet being open to everyone.

“I used to work in human services, and oftentimes funding had strings attached,” said Gomez. “This is different, because we … run [on] donations and go… through the [lens] of creative expression. No proof is required to [demonstrate] economic status or a traumatic experience. It can become humiliating to provide documentation or indication of something that can be personal and a private experience.”

Genova and Gomez are currently collecting clothes for the closet in preparation for its March opening. Student workers are also helping collect donations.

Graphic says Emerson Career Closet

“When we’re taking in inventory of what we have, students are saying, ‘This is cute. I’d wear this’,” said Gomez. “A lot of it looks new or has tags on it.”

The closet, a former storage area, is spacious. Students will be able to try on clothing in nearby bathrooms. It will operate by 30-minute appointments, four days a week, by contacting Genova or Gomez.

There will be a donation drive on Thursday, February 29, in the Beard Room at Piano Row from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. Along with professional wear, accessories are needed, as well as graduation regalia such as commencement robes and caps. Students are also invited to attend, meet Genova and Gomez, and drop off clothing.

“We accept everything [though] we may not use everything in the Closet,” said Genova. “An item may not be considered as professional wear, and then it would go to the Office of Sustainability to go back to the students, or it would be donated elsewhere.”

For more information about the Career Closet, including how to donate items, please contact Drew Genova at drew_genova@emerson.edu or Crystal Gomez at crystal_gomez@emerson.edu.

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