Parent-led grants program helps provide professional clothing to students

Two students at the SGA Professional Clothing Closet.

A student searches his closet, trying to piece together a suitable outfit for an upcoming career fair. He doesn’t own a suit, his ties don’t match his button-down shirt and he has outgrown his one pair of dress slacks. Graduation is approaching and this Georgia Bulldog is ready to begin his career, but the budget is tight and he can’t afford the clothes needed to land his dream job. The student sits down on his bed, unsure of what he should do.

This situation represents one of the challenges students face at the University of Georgia. There are still many student needs that donors to the UGA Parents Fund aim to meet through support for campus organizations like the Student Government Association (SGA) and its Professional Clothing Closet.

A Missing Puzzle Piece

A 2018 SGA survey revealed that 35% of students surveyed did not have access to professional attire and that 97% would appreciate an on-campus resource that provides clothing to students on an as-needed basis

SGA members Sabina Ashurova and Matthew McDaniel set out to remedy the situation by establishing an on-campus hub that ensures students have the clothing to make an outstanding first impression with employers. With financial support from partners like the Parents Leadership Council (PLC), Ashurova and McDaniel launched the SGA Professional Clothing Closet in 2019.

“At the beginning of each year, students need professional clothing for student organization executive board interviews, then career fairs and networking events come soon after,” McDaniel said. “They may learn on Monday that there is a potential employer coming on Thursday and need the attire on short notice. We saw this closet as the missing puzzle piece for students to have professional success.”

Enter: The Parents Leadership Council

Each member of the PLC contributes $5,000 annually to the UGA Parents Fund. Then, the PLC meets annually to allocate resources from the UGA’s Parents Fund to campus organizations like the SGA Professional Clothing Closet through the PLC Grants Program. The PLC’s goal is to create a safer, healthier and more enriching campus through its grant program. It also supports need-based scholarships, student services and student programming with these funds.

PLC grants have allowed SGA to expand the closet’s physical space to accommodate an influx of clothing donations, purchase an inventory tracking system, plan events and purchase clothing of more diverse sizes, colors, and designs. SGA also hosted 12 pop-up shops around campus to increase access to clothing and share information about UGA Career Center resources and resume critiques. In the end, the financial support provided by UGA parents is crucial to SGA accommodating the approximately 1,000 student requests each academic year.

“I felt relieved because I thought I actually would have to drive somewhere and find something that fits me while thinking about the cost of the professional attire,” said Soyhun Choi, a student served by the SGA Professional Clothing Closet.

Clothing Despite COVID

While the SGA Professional Clothing Closet paused operations in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it reopened that fall (following UGA’s coronavirus safety guidelines). It remains available for any student who schedules an appointment online.

Because of the generosity of parent donors and the efforts of the PLC and SGA Professional Clothing Closet, the number of students struggling to access professional attire has been reduced. Students now have the peace of mind that attire availability will not stand in the way of their career dreams.