Recruiting season is all year round. Creating resumes and preparing elevator pitches are becoming second nature for Montclair State University students. With so much preparation for the future, students can forget the last piece of the puzzle- the right clothing.
Rocky’s Closet creates a safe place for students to develop their own business casual wardrobes. The closet provides suits for both men and women, as well as neck ties, button-ups, slacks, pants and accessories.
The idea for Rocky’s Closet started back in 2016, when administrators at Montclair State felt it was important for students to gain access to business casual attire. This pushed them to create clothing drives throughout the semester. After much success, Rocky’s Closet was soon developed and passed down through many hands.
In the spring of 2019, Karen Pennington, the former vice president of student life and development, created the initiative with other campus leaders that would further the lives of students at Montclair State.
“I always believed that the work of student affairs involved meeting students’ needs outside of the classroom so they can then concentrate in the classroom,” Pennington said. “Helping them have the appropriate wardrobe for job interviews, career or other occasions was important and something we could do for those who needed it.”
With the idea in mind, the initiative still needed a home. Through the years, Pennington passed the torch down to Rahjaun Gordon, the director of the Educational Opportunity Fund. Gordon was tasked to expand the idea and find a home for the program.
Gordon found his answer in Thea Dyer, the assitant director of residence life. Together, they created a space for Rocky’s Closet to grow in The Village.
“During that time, [Gordon] worked with myself to establish a location which we identified in Alice Paul [Hall],” Dyer said. “We had scheduled to officially launch the closet in March of 2020. However, due to [the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19)], we never really had an official opening.”
During the summer of 2020, Rocky’s Closet was moved under the direction of the Office for Social Justice and Diversity, now led by its director Adela Caceres. Caceres, however, was faced with a major challenge: continuing Rocky’s Closet while in a global pandemic.
“We were still in the pandemic for the rest of 2020 and 2021, so the closet was still operational, but it was pretty much on a limited basis at that point,” Caceres said. “It was strict by appointment only. Very few students were involved because it was still a virtual year, so we didn’t have a big team at all when it came to Rocky’s Closet.”
Rocky’s Closet’s location also creates a challenge due to its limited access.
“Alice Paul Hall is not accessible to everyone, you have to be able to swipe,” Caceres said. “So that also made it a little bit challenging.”
However, these challenges did not stop Caceres. She is completely revamping the closet by hiring graduate students and interns to keep this program alive. These new elements allow students to access the closet on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, creating a smoother process for students on the hunt to expand their wardrobes.
“We’ve been in full operation for six weeks and we have already served a total of 36 students and staff,” Caceres said.
This was a huge achievement for the team, after having so many setbacks in the early stages. With so much more work to be done, Caceres is pushing to change the overall aesthetics, location and accessibility for students at Montclair State.
One of the major changes Caceres plans to make is to replace the actual closets with clothing racks. This would create more open access to the clothing and merchandise offered. Another change the team is pushing for is a new location, which would make it easier for students to come and go as they please.
“If there was a way to get us to the center of campus that’s open to the students at all times, that would absolutely be the ask,” Caceres said.
These changes will make Rocky’s Closet the icing on the cake for career services, giving students the opportunity to dress for success and not have to go through the stress of scrambling for something to wear before job interviews.
Navrose Bajwa, a graduate student at Montclair State and the manager of the closet, plays a huge role in the ongoing success of Rocky’s Closet.
“We are able to help people so much, [and] the clothes are so expensive,” Bajwa said. “The reaction they get when they realize they can take as much as they want is great. The joy they have on their face is totally worth it.”
Rocky’s Closet is also creating internship opportunities for students to sharpen their wide range of skills. Students who are interested in volunteering should email Rocky’s Closet for more information. Be sure to follow them on Instagram at @msurockyscloset and email them at firstname.lastname@example.org with any appointment inquiries.