By Shannon Govern
Below Murray Hall, in an unsuspecting former classroom sits St. Ben’s Senator Sydney Robinson in front of a calendar, clipboard and her laptop. Behind her stretches the Bennie Career Closet.
Robinson is the student manager in charge of the regular operation of the closet and an avid and vocal supporter of the project. She quickly catered to two students who had come during the open hours to pick out an outfit. It was quickly apparent that Robinson’s personality and attention to detail poured into every conversation, and every shred of fabric present in the room. Racks of clothing were arranged by size and mostly color coordinated to make a normally stressful experience as pleasant as possible.
“We are here for the whole transformation, like the academic and professional development of women, [we are] not just a boutique,” Robinson said.
Robinson hopes the closet will move to a space outside of a basement classroom and be able to expand the options available.
“I think my biggest hope would be that we become more skin diverse. So we get nylons in all shades of skin tones from very fair to very dark,” Robinson said. “I want to be able to give lessons on makeup, and create a situation where it’s not just ‘come and go.’”
The closet offers its costumers a full array of outfits from blazers with dress pants, to fashionable jewelry and heels to accessorize. Students don’t need to worry either about what they try on, since everything is cleaned before being displayed; one of the many duties of Robinson.
Vice President of Student Development Mary Geller is the faculty member in charge of the Closet.
“As college costs soar, many colleges and universities are starting these as a way to help students defray costs,” Geller said via email.
Geller echoed much of what Robinson had herself stated.
“How many times have you avoided doing things because you felt like you did not have the right clothes? Like you might stick out, look awkward or draw negative judgement? Well, we don’t think (on top of
everything else) students should have to worry about that, we want the closet to be an avenue for students to consider possibilities they might not otherwise have considered,” Geller said.
Robinson invited me into the storage area, where they kept the seasonal apparel, and the clothes with unlabeled sizes. The chilly, former racquetball court reverberated Robinson’s ideal evolution of the closet.
“Not being in the basement would be great, we want it to be easier to find. I know that a lot of low income, people of color can be very intimidated to have to go into an office and say ‘I don’t know’ or ask for help,” Robinson said. “I’d like to be the bridge to help those students get the resources that they need to do better.”
Geller has high hopes for the future of the closet.
“We designed the Career Closet with a business plan that makes it long term and sustainable,” Geller said. “Our mission is to be ‘size’ inclusive and all our advertising for donations makes this very clear”.
The Closet thus far has been successful due in large part to College Navigator Hannah Salto, HCC Director Marcia Mahlum and Robinson. Donations can be made at any time, and Robinson currently is working toward
finding grants to expand the closet options.
Hours of operation are Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11:00 am – 1:00 pm, and Tuesday and Sunday 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm. You can also schedule an appointment by filling out the request form on the Bennie Career Closet website.