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USF students can now keep items they check out at their next trip to Suit-A-Bull

Suit-A-Bull allows students to pick four items to keep each year at no extra cost. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

A new giveaway system for Suit-A-Bull has made professional clothing more accessible to USF’s students.

The system will allow students to permanently keep four clothing items from the closet every academic year, rather than renting items temporarily. 

Addye Buckley-Burnell, executive director for the Center for Career and Professional Development, said the change was made after seeing the same students rent the same items repeatedly.

“I wanted to look at how we could change the model to make sure that our students had access to these clothes, but more of an investment in their future wardrobe, as opposed to a one-off situation,” Buckley-Burnell said.

Prior to the system change made at the beginning of fall, Suit-A-Bull allowed students to rent professional dress items for 48 hours. While the old system allowed the program to fill the needs of its students, Buckley-Burnell said she had an idea for a giveaway service.

Buckley-Burnell previously worked at similar closets at Auburn University and Boston University, both of which followed the giveaway model now employed by Suit-A-Bull. She said this system would be able to better serve the repeat customers Suit-A-Bull sees each year.

She said the change has already been well received by students. Throughout the fall semester, Suit-A-Bull served over 750 students and gave away 1,670 items of clothing, according to Buckley-Burnell.

The giveaway model would be more sustainable in the long run because the program would not have dry cleaning costs following each rental, she said. This will also reduce delays in returning the items to the shelves for students in need.

“It was just obvious that this was something that needed to have a change,” Buckley-Burnell said.

The change means students will no longer be able to rent different items throughout the year. This means when students pick an item, they commit to that piece as one of their four items for the year. One suit counts as four items, limiting students to one full suit per year.

Carmen Goldsmith, special assistant to vice president of Student Affairs, oversaw the changes to the Suit-A-Bull storefront and determined the program had the resources to support the change, according to Buckley-Burnell.

“We’re going to be looking at each semester to see how it’s going…we’re going to pull the data and make sure that all of our decisions are data-informed,” Buckley-Burnell said.

One of her biggest concerns was there would not be enough resources to keep up with the giveaway model, so Suit-A-Bull did not advertise the change at first. By December, she felt they had a reliable supply to tell more students about the change. 

Students are still welcome to donate an item back to the closet if they no longer need it, but cannot trade the item in for a new one.

Suit-A-Bull receives donations through clothing drives and donations from students and faculty throughout the year. To maintain the stock of clothing necessary to support a giveaway model, Suit-A-Bull is looking to host more alumni-based clothing drives and create an Amazon wish list for specific items and sizes. 

Buckley-Burnell said the wish list would enforce the quantity of popular sizes and styles that are the first to be selected by students. She also said the wish list would allow anyone in the community to get donations sent directly to the office and get items on the rack immediately.

Suit-A-Bull is also looking to partner with local employers, specifically those in the fashion industry, to provide clothes for students. These partners would be able to offer larger scale donations of quality clothing to the university closet.

“We’re really being creative in our donation model to see where we can be receiving these clothes to allow for more clothing in the progress and rotation of this,” she said. “So far, we’ve been able to maintain that and hope to continue that moving forward.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this incorrectly identified Carmen Goldsmith‘s title. The story has been updated.