Professional Attire Fund Empowers Students to Dress for Success

Person's hands straightening tie

A polished, professional outfit has long been connected to confidence and a corner office, and Babson College created a new fund to ensure that every student has access to professional clothing.

Babson’s Professional Attire Program, which will be available in January, is for any student who has a big presentation or interview coming up and can’t afford polished business clothing. The fund will be available through the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) program of the Hoffman Family Undergraduate Center for Career Development (CCD).

“The Professional Attire Program will empower students to confidently and genuinely present themselves in professional settings,” Larinda Cole, senior associate director of IDEA, said.

The idea for the fund came from students during a Back to Babson discussion in 2022, according to Gerri Randlett, assistant vice president of alumni engagement and annual giving.

“They had peers who did not have money to buy clothes for class presentations, interviews, or jobs. They hoped that we could create a closet on campus that would have items they could select when needed,” Randlett said.

“When you look good, you feel confident. At Babson, we always want our students to feel good as they walk into any experience.”
Gerri Randlett, assistant vice president of alumni engagement and annual giving

Randlett quickly discovered that a student closet would present too many logistical issues. She discussed the issue with Angel Long, director of the Office of Student Engagement, and Ann McAdam Griffin, director of the Hoffman Family Center for Career Development, and eventually the Professional Attire Program was born.

Feeling Good

The fund already received $15,000, a large chunk of which came from Rick Blackshaw ’85, president of HEYDUDE, a division of Crocs. Blackshaw also has worked at Keds, Sperry, and Timberland.

“With their gift, we were able to start promoting the fund in advance of Make Your Mark, our biggest fundraising event of the year,” Randlett said.

Students will receive a stipend they can use with any retailer, though the Professional Attire Program now works with Hyde, the professional dress service with high quality and designer brands, as its preferred retail partner. Hyde, which also works with other colleges, provides complimentary professional styling and consultations to outfit students, taking into account different industries. Hyde also offers gender inclusive dress for non-binary, female, and male genders, as well as a wide range of sizes to fit the needs of all students.

The Professional Attire Program comes after Tim Ryan ’88, U.S. chair and senior partner at PwC, shared a poignant story about his first experience with professional attire during his Commencement address to the undergraduate Class of 2023.

Ryan showed up to work at PwC just out of Babson wearing a suit and tie, but his button-up shirt was polyester and short-sleeved, unlike everyone around him. A senior worker took Ryan to Filene’s Basement and bought him two long-sleeve shirts.

“That instructor showed me love. That instructor was a Babson alum,” Ryan said.

The Professional Attire Program continues to evolve, including how much each student can spend and what kind of attire students can purchase. Randlett is just happy that the fund will address a request that came directly from Babson students.

“When you look good, you feel confident,” Randlett said. “At Babson, we always want our students to feel good as they walk into any experience.”

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