UAB community comes together to help students prepare for the workforce

An informal suit exchange has transformed into an official fundraising campaign to give students in need professional clothes for career fairs and job interviews.
Written by: Katherine Shonesy
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suit up collatThe career services team from Collat purchases suits for students in the program. Many students cannot afford the professional attire they need to wear to job interviews. On-campus career fairs can be especially difficult for these students.

For the past two years, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business faculty and staff have stepped up to provide assistance through monetary and clothing donations with the launch of the Suit Up Collat program.

This year, the school decided to open participation to all UAB faculty, staff and alumni, as well as the community, giving all an opportunity to make a direct and tangible impact on students’ lives and career trajectories.

“Searching for a job is stressful, and our students deserve the confidence that comes from looking professional and polished,” said Rita Stewart-Hampton, director of Career Services for Collat. “This program aims to help them feel as prepared as possible, and enter into the competitive job market with self-assurance.”

The school has launched a crowdfunding site on UAB’s Fire website, the university’s official platform for crowdfunding and special campaigns at UAB. The platform’s mission is to ignite big ideas at the university, and Suit Up Collat is a big idea.

Suit Up Collat began two years ago as an initiative to get all business students, faculty and staff to dress professionally for the UAB Career Fair.

When some students confided in faculty and staff that they did not have a suit and could not afford to purchase one, the Collat Career Services office organized a suit exchange in which faculty and staff donated gently used suits that were paired with students in need. Some faculty and staff donated money to purchase new professional clothing, while others went shopping and brought items for students.

“As a college student, it is difficult to attain professional attire without spending a fortune,” wrote one past Suit Up Collat recipient in a thank-you note. “I feel I am more prepared to begin interviewing with companies because I will be dressed for success. I just wanted to thank you for your kindness, and I am so grateful for your generosity.”

The campaign’s goal is to raise $5,000 by early November. In its first 24 hours online, the campaign raised $1,855. To date, more than 30 donors have given $2,575 to the campaign. The campaign will close Sunday, Nov. 5.

Funds donated will be used to purchase professional clothing, such as suits, slacks, blazers, shirts and ties in advance of the spring UAB Career Fair.

To make a gift, or learn more about the program, visit