When the Kenneth W. Monfort College of Business (MCB) faculty and staff were asked to submit ideas for how donor-support initiatives could better help students, Melissa Hoffman thought back to a conversation with then-Dean Paul Bobrowski about another school’s professional attire closet. She decided to write up a proposal for a similar program at UNC, asking for input from other universities with similar programs.

Thus began the UNC Professional Attire Closet.

Hoffman, MCB’s professional experience coordinator, worked with campus partners to find space, install clothing racks, and collect donated clothing. Since the closet opened in August 2019, 64 students from 22 different majors have visited the closet, with all but five finding items they needed. 

Hoffman says the closet helps increase student confidence, including for the high population of UNC students who are first generation and working full-time to pay for college.

“This closet has allowed them the opportunity to come and take a suit, go to that job interview or that networking event, class presentation, whatever it might be, and have that increased confidence level so that they perform to the best of their abilities,” Hoffman says. “I've noticed a lot of the events I've gone to with CSU or CU or DU, you see the students in their designer suits and name-brand shoes. I think just having this opportunity has given them (our students) increased confidence in themselves.” 

Hoffman says students from all across campus appreciate that the closet is free.

“There's really no college student that has extra funds to go buy a brand-new suit,” she says. “Even recent graduates don't have that kind of money. So this has just allowed them to get a new suit coat or a new pair of pants or a new shirt or tie, whatever it might be, and not have to spend the little bit of money they have on something new.” 

Emmy Scott, the president of UNCO Earth Guardians and a third-year double major in Business Administration and Environmental and Sustainability Studies, heard about the closet from a professor.  As someone who’s passionate about the environment, Scott is a proponent of shopping at reused clothing stores anyway. When she heard that students are allowed to keep the clothing they take, it encouraged her to go all the more.                  

“I was like ‘OK, if I find one article of clothing in there that’s cute, I can keep it, and I can just use that in all my presentations,’” Scott says.

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She went in to look for heels and found a pair far more comfortable than ones she’d found at the mall.

I felt like I was actually in a mini thrift store," Scott says.

She’s worn the shoes for conferences, networking events, presentations and talks on campus. She’s also been back to the closet for a dressy blue blouse so she could match her team while representing UNC at the 2019 International Business Ethics and Sustainability Case Competition, where she and her team placed first in two categories. 

The clothing donations continue to flow in, Hoffman says. She and her colleagues are also brainstorming and developing ways to use future monetary donations, such as for purchasing new items for students to check out and return, or for purchasing suits that could reward students who win academic contests.

Thanks to friends and staff of UNC, there’s one less barrier to students reaching their potential. 

The clothing donations continue to flow in, Hoffman says. She and her colleagues are also brainstorming and developing ways to use future monetary donations, such as for purchasing new items for students to check out and return, or for purchasing suits that could reward students who win academic contests.

Thanks to friends and staff of UNC, there’s one less barrier to students reaching their potential. 

Make a Donation

To donate gently used professional attire in current styles, contact Melissa Hoffman or make a monetary donation:

  • Designation: Other
  • How would you like to direct your donation: MCB Professional Experience Fund