MSSU Students Gain Confidence and Professional Work Attire at Annual Dress to Impress Event | News

Jhe ballroom on the third floor of Missouri Southern State University’s Billingsly Student Center was transformed Wednesday into a department store where students found free professional clothing and accessories to take home.

Financial stress can be a daily reality for students who may not have the means to build a professional wardrobe. MSSU’s Office of Career Services began sponsoring the annual Dress to Impress program eight years ago to give students some of the tools they’ll need to succeed.

Donations of new or lightly used work items are accepted from community members, businesses and organizations at a clothing drive from November through February. Alex Gandy, director of MSSU’s career services office, said the program is bursting in popularity every year.

“The first year we served around 100 to 120 students, and now we will serve around 100 students per hour,” he said. “In the first hour today we saw 95 students. It developed not only in students, but also in awareness. It’s really exciting to see the growth in community engagement, and we have fantastic partners in the community, including banks and healthcare organizations. There is strong support for this event, which is fantastic.

Gandy said the event is not just a giveaway of clothes, but also a learning opportunity for students. Local business professionals are paired with a student to help them choose work attire based on their career prospects. There were 40 to 45 volunteers and mentors on site Wednesday.

“About half of our students, about 50%, are first generation (students),” Gandy said. “When you want to try to help a student feel supported and equipped for their career, it’s one thing for them to become a curriculum expert, but there are all these intangibles outside of the curriculum, like feeling confident when entering his profession. When we asked students about direct leads that can help them be more successful in their careers, professional streetwear was one of them.

“From there, we created two different events – Dress to Impress, and then we facilitated a partnership with JC Penney,” he added. “We can’t do this every semester, so in the fall we do Suit Up with JC Penney where they can get up to 60% off dress clothes.”

The program is organized in partnership with MSSU and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. Since its inception, the event has provided professional apparel to over 1,000 MSSU students and graduates.

“We believe in connecting with our future workforce and ensuring they are equipped and set up to succeed,” said Erin Slifka, Chief Marketing and Information Officer. public at the Joplin Chamber. “It allows us to connect the community to students here at MSSU by providing professional apparel and accessories to help these students become familiar with jobs and interviews where they can focus on the skills and strengths they have learned. .”

The one-day event featured around 2,000 items to choose from, including blazers, suits, pants, dresses, shoes, ties and jewelry. There is no item limit per student, giving them the opportunity to build a professional wardrobe without having to shell out a penny.

“When a young man walks out of here and he’s got a full suit, button-up shirt and tie, he feels confident, and when he shows up for that job interview, it’s one less thing. he should be worried about.” Gandhi said.

‘Very grateful’

Joshua Samuel, a 19-year-old MSSU sophomore majoring in accounting, stocked up on suits and ties for future job interviews and internships Wednesday morning. He chose a pair of shiny black dress shoes. With the amount of high-quality clothing he selected, the cost could easily have topped $300.

Samuel said he was grateful to the community and the university for caring enough about the students to organize an event like Dress to Impress.

“Going to these kinds of events can save students a lot of money, so I’m very grateful for events like this,” he said. “It’s been a very good experience so far, and I’ll definitely be back next year. I think these kinds of events show that the community is willing to give and that the MSSU is willing to contribute to students, which for me is very important as a student. It makes us feel included, more confident, and that they want to see us succeed.

Samuel was paired with Cameo Harrington, a senior account manager at Stealth Creative Joplin, as a volunteer and personal shopper.

“It’s my favorite volunteer day because it’s so much fun helping these kids feel good about themselves and feel confident,” she said. “I have a lot of retail experience so I think that helps. The Career Services team has really done an amazing job growing this event every year.”

Margarita Antillon, a 23-year-old junior who majors in studio art, attended Dress to Impress for the first time and chose a dress shirt and pants.

“I love that it exists and I hope to use some of these clothes for meetings or for work,” she said. “I work as a gallery assistant, so these are clothes I will definitely need. It also changes your attitude. When you dress well, you feel good. Especially with work clothes you feel more confident, and it all really helps.

The Dress to Impress program was created by the MSSU Career Services Office and Alumni Association in conjunction with the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network.

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