Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Scholarships make professional clothing accessible to students

With the help of a scholarship, Carlos Chavez ’23 purchased new business attire at the recent Suit-Up event, co-hosted by the University of Redlands Office of Career and Professional Development and JCPenney. (Photo by Coco McKown '04, '10)

Carlos Chavez ’23 learned the importance of presenting himself well from his grandmother. He recalled her constant encouragement: “Make a strong impression with how you look, and a bigger impact with the knowledge you have.”

With this in mind, he attended Suit-Up, an event co-hosted by the University of Redlands Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) and JCPenney. “Suit-Up is our opportunity to help students prepare for their professional wardrobes, whether they’re getting ready for their internships, a big interview, or their jobs after graduation,” said OCPD Associate Director for Career Strategy and Integration Lauren Wooster.

Leaning on volunteer counselors—such as Elizabeth Martinez '25 (left)—for input, Chavez came away with a new suit, shirts, and ties that he practiced knotting during the event. (Photo by Coco McKown '04,'10)

During the event, participants took advantage of exclusive discounts on a variety of wardrobe options. This year, designated counselors were available to provide advice on women’s, men’s, and gender-adaptive fashion, color coordination, selecting and applying makeup, and other decisions about business attire. OCPD also crowdfunded scholarships allowing each of the 31 recipients—one of which was Chavez—to secure $100 worth of professional clothing at no cost.

“Because of the scholarship, I was able to get a full outfit and I gained a lot of confidence in the process,” Chavez said. “When you’re deciding what to wear, you’re choosing a part of yourself to display that everyone sees first. As a Latino first-generation college student, that first impression is important, not only as a scholar but as part of my family legacy.”

Scholarship recipients pose with their wardrobe selections. (Photo by Coco McKown '04, '10)

Chavez leaned on other first-generation students for input and came away with a new suit, shirts, and ties that he practiced knotting with the help of one of the counselors. He said he enjoyed taking a group picture with the other scholarship recipients and seeing the items that other participants chose while he stood in line to check out.

“That doesn’t sound very exciting, but I noticed other peoples’ reactions to their new outfits and could tell that it would make a difference in their lives,” he said. 

In addition to being a full-time undergraduate student, Chavez works a graveyard shift as a security guard at a local rehabilitation center. “Having a separate time where I could have the resources to buy these clothes was a huge benefit—with having to work and pay for school, that wasn’t always a priority for me. It offered a lot of financial relief and made me feel like I could treat myself while still being responsible,” he said.

As a global business and Asian studies major who is active in the University community—a student employee in the Office of Alumni & Community Relations, a senator for the Associated Students of the University of Redlands, a THRIVE group leader, a supportive member of the Latinx Club and Black Student Union, and a provost search committee member—Chavez knows he will have many opportunities to utilize his new wardrobe. On top of interviewing for potential internships this summer, he has several mixers to attend.

“The way I present myself represents not only me but the University and the work that I’ve accomplished here,” he said. “I want to keep putting my best foot forward professionally.”

The crowdfunding campaign ended on February 22 and raised $3,125. Donors who wish to give can go to www.redlands.edu/givenow and indicate Suit Up. Learn more about the Office of Career and Professional Development.