By Kevin Keenan, communication intern in the Office of University Relations.
They say you should dress for the job you want.
That is why one Marquette University student is on a mission to make a professional wardrobe a reality for first-generation and low-income students.
Mayra Alaniz, a graduate student in the College of Business Administration, is the creator of Marquette Career Closet.
Marquette Career Closet is a student-run nonprofit organization that collects gently used professional wardrobe donations to benefit students on campus experiencing difficulty accessing professional clothes.
As a first-generation student herself, Alaniz says she understands the challenges students with limited resources face through college and as they enter the job market.
While studying as an undergraduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Alaniz found herself having difficulties affording and putting together enough professional ensembles for different internships and job interviews.
And if she were to be selected for those roles, it was heavy on her mind that she couldn’t just wear the same outfit every day. Those thoughts, she says, were discouraging during a time that was supposed to be exciting.
All of it, though, shaped her into the individual she is today and helped fuel her drive to give back to the community and help others in need take the next big steps in their lives.
While still at Georgetown, Alaniz received a professional development grant to purchase work clothing for herself. The assistance proved to be a game changer for her, and when she arrived at Marquette in fall 2021, she knew she wanted to bring something similar to the university in the city she calls home.
“I was born and raised in Milwaukee. I am a southsider. So, I very much grew up in Hispanic Milwaukee,” Alaniz says. “I decided to come back after graduating from Georgetown because I just want to do my part to be the difference in my hometown. I want to connect people in need with resources that will have a profound impact on their educational, work and personal experiences.”
Alaniz pitched the idea for Marquette Career Closet during the 707 Hub’s Brewed Ideas Challenge. From there, she received funding to help jumpstart the initiative, offering Marquette students in need a professional closet at no cost for the coming school year and professional opportunities that may follow.
The Marquette Career Closet counts on the support of the Marquette Career Center, which Alaniz says has been a key partner in ensuring Marquette Career Closet succeeds.
Alaniz also works in coordination with the Education Opportunity Program office to identify and connect with first-generation and low-income students at Marquette.
Having professional clothes accessible for students in need can drastically boost their confidence during interviews and therefore contribute to more positive life outcomes.
“Having professional clothes helps student feel empowered. When they put on a suit, or when they have clothes that they can show up to their interviews or internships in and have just a little more confidence, that makes all the difference,” Alaniz says. “I really hope the space of having a closet will kind of revolutionize and then make us think a little bit more deeply about how we offer career services to modern day students.”
Marquette Career Closet hosted a professional clothing drive in August. All donations will benefit Marquette students having trouble accessing professional clothes.
Alaniz plans to host a Marquette Career Closet pop-up event in the Alumni Memorial Union in spring 2023 where students can browse, try on and take home their select clothes, free of charge. More information will be shared closer to the event.