This article was updated to correct the Academic for Student Engagement to the Office of Academic Engagement and to specify the location of the OAE.
The Academic Success and Career Center hosted a professional clothing drive this week, Sept. 23-27, to garner more clothing items for WSU’s Cougar Closet.
This event was planned to help students prepare for the 2019 Fall Career Expo and the Voiland College Engineering and Architecture Technical Fair, which is scheduled for Tuesday at Beasley Coliseum.
ASCC assistant director Maria de Jesus Dixon said the Cougar Closet provides students with both new and gently used clothes for professional events, including interviews and career expos.
The closet was revived in spring 2019 after Dixon found out about the program. Dixon said she wanted to help serve the needs students had, especially because WSU had about 4,500 incoming freshmen last year.
“We were finding that students didn’t have the money to be able to pay for a well-put-together outfit,” she said.
Dixon and the ASCC have been working closely with the ASWSU to develop marketing campaigns for the program since not many people are aware of its existence, she said.
Ray Acuña-Luna, project director for Cougs Rise at the Office of Academic Engagement, said the OAE partnered with the ASCC because they wanted to expand the services the closet provides.
“The partnership between the ASCC and Office of Academic Engagement was a natural fit because we have similar goals in helping students in need,” he said.
The professional clothing drive was welcomed with enthusiasm from students, Acuña-Luna said.
“[Students] are excited because they see the commitment, the goodwill of people at the university and the community,” he said.
Located in the second floor of the Commons Building, the OAE office serves as an additional Cougar Closet drop-off location, Dixon said. The ASCC is also collaborating with the Carson College of Business.
Dixon said the Cougar Closet received donations from the Pullman Chamber of Commerce and Coldwell Bankers after being included in the Pullman Community Update last summer.
They are looking for more locations on campus to expand this program, Acuña-Luna said. Additional locations will help provide more space to manage donations and make the program more accessible to students.
He said they are also working to build the closet’s inventory while increasing awareness of the program. That will help them provide diverse arrangements of clothes to students. They are planning to reach out to more campus partners, as well as academic and career advisers, who have direct contact with students.
Dixon said upgrading their Cougar Closet system is also a key goal in mind.
“We have an old-school system,” Dixon said.
Each clothing item has a designated ticket, she said. Students get the clothes they need and hand the tickets to a staff member who then takes inventory. Staff members also take note of students’ demographics as well.
They are working on transitioning from using tickets to utilizing QR codes. She said this is under development but might be available for the spring professional clothes drive.
Donations can be dropped off at the ASCC in Lighty Student Services Building during business hours 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. They can also be dropped off at Todd Hall, Room 101 and at the Commons Student Center, Room 210. Dixon said the ASCC can also pick up donations from businesses that are not able to make it to the drop-off locations.
She said clothes must be professional and gently used or new. Gently used clothes can be taken to the cleaners and pressed before being dropped off. Tax donor sheets are available for tax receipts as well.
Dixon said students can drop by the ASCC to get clothes. Students can also call the ASCC’s main line to schedule an appointment if needed.
“There’s always a stigma attached to anybody going to a closet, whether it’s a food pantry or clothing closet,” Dixon said. “We are just happy that we have [the Cougar Closet] here to be able to provide for them.”
The items are free and do not have to be returned. Acuña-Luna said students should not be ashamed of using the Cougar Closet as a resource.
“There is no shame for accessing resources that you need,” he said. “At the end of the day, [students] need to take care of themselves.”