June Adams simply saw a need and has worked to fill it.
As the adviser for new transfer students and a graduate analyst in the MTSU College of Education, Adams’ interactions with future educators revealed that many students didn’t have the proper professional wardrobe to enter the classroom full time.
This led to the creation of Clothing Our Educators Boutique, which opens later this month in the College of Education Building’s Room 203 to help future teachers launch their classroom careers.
The boutique will provide clothing at no cost to upper level students in the “residency” portion of the teaching program.
A grand opening is planned for 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, March 17. Faculty participated in a successful soft opening in December.
“As I advise students and work with students, I see the need,” Adams said. “Most aren’t as fortunate as others … and attire is basically jeans, T-shirts and sneakers. … I’m seeing the need every day.”
Located just off the office suite of College of Education Dean Lana Seivers, Clothing Our Educators has the feel of an intimate boutique with neatly arranged racks of women’s and men’s clothing in a variety of sizes and styles, plus a glass display case showcasing various accessories to complete any outfit. A big decorative apple sits to the right, flanked by teacher-related decorations on the wall.
“When (students) walk in, you want to give them something that’s inspiring,” Adams said. “It looks well enough and is set up to say, ‘I’m important. This makes me feel good.’”
Residency students are upper-level students who are immediately preparing for or are already student teaching in the classroom. To use the boutique, these students must fill out a short application to document what they received.
Students can visit the boutique by appointment and should contact Adams in her office in COE Room 307, by phone at 615-898-5153 or by email at June.Adams@mtsu.edu.
“This is a starter,” Adams said.
Inspired by Raiders Closet success
Adams was inspired by the Raiders Closet, a free clothing resource founded by Dr. Virginia Hemby-Grubb, a Jones College of Business management professor, three years ago. Raiders Closet offers students from all departments quality business attire for job interviews, internships and other professional needs.
Now located in Room 327 of the Keathley University Center, Raiders Closet relies on donations to stock suits, blouses, dresses, skirts, shoes, ties and accessories.
“To see what was being done by them, I was amazed,” Adams said. “Virginia has really been very helpful.”
The idea came to Adams while she was attending a committee meeting last year to discuss the university’s microgrant program, which provides emergency funds for students with unexpected expenses that could prevent them from staying in college.
If students are struggling with basic challenges, such as paying for textbooks and putting gas in their vehicles to get to class, Adams recalled thinking, then they’ll likely find it difficult to purchase professional-looking clothes when it’s time to enter the workforce.
After receiving an OK from Seivers, Adams went to work soliciting and collecting donations for the clothing closet.
Seivers said she is thrilled with the result and believes the effort is “a natural fit” for the university’s Quest for Student Success initiative to support students through graduation.
MTSU was founded as a teaching school more than a century ago and continues to be one of the top producers of new teachers in the state.
“As you can see from this space, there are all kinds of clothing,” Seivers said. “Professional dress for a kindergarten teacher will look a little different from professional dress for an English teacher teaching 10th grade level.
“June has looked at what our teacher candidates need, and I think she’s done an excellent job at gathering things that meet a wide range of needs.”
Experience helps — and so do friends
An MTSU alumna herself (Classes of 1980, ’82 and ’85), Adams has a master’s in vocational technical education and an education specialist degree in education, as well as a bachelor’s in fashion merchandising.
For a number of years, Adams worked in retail clothing and merchandising. She was store manager for Gresham’s Fine Men’s Clothing in Murfreesboro, where she credits store owner Earle Gresham with mentoring her on how to properly set up a store — “what to do, how to do it, how to market, how to display.”
Clothing Our Educators received its first donations from Raiders Closet. Afterward, Adams went to faculty, staff and friends from the community to seek donations of clothes that were dry-cleaned, on hangers and were “in really good shape.”
Before she knew it, she recalled, there were more clothes than she could handle. Her mentor Gresham put in “a lot of sweat equity” on weekends and after hours to help with setup and supplied Adams with racks, counter and other necessary equipment for the clothing boutique.
The COE boutique welcomes donations that are age-appropriate for students ages 20 to 30, Adams said. Needs include:
- men’s dress or sport shirts.
- men’s slacks, ties, blazers and sweaters.
- men’s outerwear.
- women’s dresses, pants, skirts, blouses.
- women’s sweaters, jackets and outerwear.
- women’s handbags, jewelry and other accessories.
The boutique is currently accepting summer and spring clothing as well.
Adams noted that the boutique is “so fortunate” to have partnered with Camille’s Department Store Outlet on West Northfield Boulevard, which will donate newer items to help increase Clothing Our Educators’ inventory.
Donations can be dropped off at Adams’ office, COE Room 307, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday–Friday. For after hours or weekend donations, contact Adams at 615-898-5153 or email June.Adams@mtsu.edu.
— Jimmy Hart (firstname.lastname@example.org)