Students Put Lessons to Work in Designing a Career Clothing Closet


Ayanna Washington, director of Career Connections, wants Community College of Philadelphia students to have an edge in their job searches, so she began collecting new or gently worn career clothing for them to wear on job interviews.

"We want our students to have every advantage," said Washington, whose staff offers individual appointments, seminars, career fairs and other activities that show students how to plan, strategize and achieve their career goals. The College's students are able to visit the career closet, located at the entrance of the Career Connections Center, to pick out a free outfit each semester that is suitable for office wear.

Community College of Philadelphia received so many clothing donations that Washington eventually needed a larger clothes rack and additional space. After receiving approval to expand the initiative, she decided to involve the students in the College’s Architecture, Design and Construction (ADC) program in the planning process.

Paula Behrens R.A., a professor in the Architecture, Design and Construction Department, and Betsy Masters, AIA, AFAAR, coordinator for the ADC Architecture and Interior Design programs, both assigned their classes—ADC 209 and ADC 259—the task of developing designs for the new space.

“I asked Paula and Betsy to get their classes involved," Washington said. "What they were able to produce and the level of work was nothing short of amazing. I had tears in my eyes while watching the class presentations.”

Working in teams, CCP's architecture students produced designs shown in drawings and in architectural models, supplementing the presentations with sample fabrics, paint color schemes, lighting layouts and fixtures, and more. Each team incorporated unique and interesting details such as hanging garment racks, built-in shelves, spacious dressing rooms, and ceiling accents.

The class began their assignment, as professional architects might do, with a tour of the space and a meeting with Washington to discuss her vision.

Masters and Behrens were impressed with the students’ work, and by their final presentations. “I was also blown away on that project because I really had no idea what to expect in so short a time, “Behrens said. “They got not only the design up to a good level, but they also produced drawings that were excellent. They each developed a different design approach and presented them in complete and well-thought out ways.”

“The presentations communicate the designs really clearly and look beautiful," Masters added. "Through design we articulated a vision for what Ayanna really wants. We learned it wasn't really a closet after all. It's a boutique for career clothing.”

Masters said the student designs were graded on a number of factors: Does the space work? Do the materials work? Do the colors work? Does the lighting work with the space? Does it meet the client’s needs?

Nicole Gonzalez, one of the students in Masters’ class, said she enjoyed the collaboration with classmates and the challenges that accompanied a one-week project deadline. “It feels great to be part of change," Gonzalez said

The next step is to cost out the teams' proposals, and find funding to cover the construction work. Meanwhile, the college community is invited to take a look at all the design boards, which are posted on the second floor of the West Building, behind the architecture program's suite of offices and on the wall of the Mint Building.

The architecture students left behind a lot more than project boards last semester—they left a legacy.

"I'm all for changing things for the better...making things simple for people, "Gonzalez said. "If we can do that, make it an easy process, simple, then that's the best feeling!”