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LSU MPA Student Helps Bring Nonprofit to Baton Rouge

Dress for Success fit a suit for its first client in early August. Pictured at the fitting are Courtney Humphrey, founder; Dionne Richardson, volunteer; Cathy Lundeen, shop manager; Brenda Williams, volunteer; Crystal Cooper, the group's first client; Kathy Wright, founder; and Connie Hall, founder and LSU MPA student.

Selecting the proper business attire to wear for a job is one of the many things students learn at LSU's E. J. Ourso College of Business well before they leave for their career or even an internship. Unfortunately, not everyone receives the same guidance for this essential piece of the job search process. One LSU Master of Public Administration student is out to help change that.

Dress for Success, a nonprofit whose local branch was recently established by LSU MPA student Connie Green Hall, assists less fortunate women to get the external look they need to match their internal potential in the workforce. Along with Hall, Kathy Wright, Courtney Humphrey, Helen Daniel and Nykeba Walker founded the Baton Rouge location. All five women attended law school together with a dream to give back to the community through a nonprofit. They chose Dress for Success because of its widespread reputation.

Since its start in 1996, Dress for Success has evolved into an international nonprofit with more than 105 affiliate locations in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Poland and the West Indies. The Baton Rouge affiliate is the 101st location.

"We didn't have knock-out suits when we first started law school because we didn't need them yet," Hall said. "Once we started to interview for clerkships and jobs, we began to understand how a suit could be a component to a new beginning."

Through Dress for Success, women who have a job interview scheduled are fitted for a business suit for their impending face-to-face. If they are successful and are hired, they can return for a week's worth of business-appropriate attire.

"If you feel good on the outside, you feel good on the inside and can put your best self forward," Hall said. "A simple suit can be the vehicle for women to regain confidence and start a new chapter in their lives. Dress for Success clients come from different walks of life. Many of them have never owned a suit and are either entering the workforce for the first time or reentering after a difficult stage in life."

Dress for Success is still in the beginning stages locally, gathering donations of clothing, clothing racks and office supplies. The organization applied for nonprofit tax status in February 2010 but has not yet received a determination.

"We are gearing up to appeal to local and national businesses and are hopeful that a few will come through with the support that Dress for Success so desperately needs," Hall said in a July 4 article in The Advocate.

Dress for Success is located in The Red Shoes building on Government Street. Wendy Herschman, executive director of The Red Shoes, offered the new nonprofit a spot in the building as they get their bearings.

"The essence of The Red Shoes is really to support and empower women," Herschman said in The Advocate article. "On that level, it's a match for the mission of The Red Shoes."

Dress for Success entered into an agreement with O'Brien House to refer clients to the organization. The group fit a suit for their first client in early August.

The organization is seeking volunteers to assist with daily tasks, including office duties, organizing clothing, organizing suit drives and serving as personal shoppers and mentors for Dress for Success clients. Those interested in volunteering should contact Wright at batonrouge@dressforsuccess.org.

Hall said her studies in the LSU MPA program have been helpful as she builds the nonprofit. She has one more year of study before graduation and plans to take MPA policy and nonprofit management courses this year.

The Public Administration Institute at LSU's E. J. Ourso College of Business offers a 42-hour degree program that emphasizes management and financial skills for those leading public agencies, nonprofit and healthcare organizations and for-profit organizations that interact with governmental agencies. PAI's faculty members are student-oriented and nationally recognized for their expertise in their fields. For more information, visit www.bus.lsu.edu/pai or call 225-578-6743.