San Marcos,
14:34 PM

Career Closet Aims to Dress for Success

By David Ogul

Talk about a quick turnaround.

Just three months after coming up with the idea during a winter break retreat, the new Latino Business Student Association has opened a closet in Craven Hall stocked with gently used professional clothing free for all CSUSM students in need of proper attire for career-related events.

The Cougar Career Closet had an April 4 grand opening in conjunction with a Dress for Success spring fashion show staged by the Latino Business Student Association – which was formed just last fall – the same day. The Career Closet’s shopping hours will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and noon to 1 p.m. on Thursdays.

“It’s really remarkable how fast these students have been able to move on this idea and bring it to fruition,” said Dr. Rebeca Perren, an assistant professor in the Marketing Department at the College of Business Administration. “It’s so motivating and exciting to see students take the initiative on a project like this. It fuels our desire as educators.”

Josefina Espino, the Latino Business Student Association’s Executive Secretary, said the idea evolved during winter break as the group was finalizing plans for the April 4 Dress for Success fashion show at the University Student Union forum from noon to 2 p.m.

“When we were getting into the details of the Dress for Success, we began thinking, ‘Hey, what about students who don’t have professional clothes at home?’ ” Espino said.

Within days, plans for a Career Closet were being finalized. Within weeks, contributions started flowing in. The CSUSM Career Center provided the room in Craven Hall. A College of Business Administration grant funded clothing racks, hangers, lint rollers, size dividers, mirrors and other supplies. Jim Hamerly, Dean of the College of Business Administration, donated a rack of business jackets. Executive in Residence Emilie Hersh held a reception at her home in which a group of women donated an entire wardrobe of professional attire.

One of the Latino Business Student Association’s newest members, Lilia Lopez, took on the role of Cougar Career Closet director, coordinating everything from setting up and organizing the closet to developing promotional materials to drive donations.

“We didn’t expect the support we’ve been getting,” Espino said. “It’s been phenomenal. We’ve been getting help from COBA, from the Career Center, from faculty and from staff. It’s just been great to see. The support really underscores what the university is all about.”

The need is profound. Approximately half of all CSUSM students come from low-income households, and roughly 70 percent come from traditionally underserved communities.

“There are a lot of students who don’t have professional clothes to wear for when they go out on an interview,” said Daisy Bueno, president of the Latino Business Student Association. “You see it a lot when you have presentations to make in a business class, and some people can only afford to come in slacks and a T-shirt. It happens all the time.”

Because of demand, the Career Closet continues to seek new or gently used business professional clothing for men and women of all sizes; two-piece suits; jackets and blazers; blouses and dress shirts; dress pants and skirts; ties; and new or gently worn dress shoes. Clothes should be cleaned prior to donation and be in good to excellent quality.

“We want to leave a lasting impact on the university and the students at the university,” Bueno said.

Donations can be made at the CSUSM Career Center, Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon (parking is allowed in the loading zone at Craven Hall). All donations are tax deductible.

Further information about the Cougar Career Closet is available at