Our local colleges and universities seek to teach their students skills that will help them succeed in their careers. Kent State University Stark, in partnership with Goodwill, the local Express clothing store and the Belden Village Mall, is seeking to impart a skill that's often overlooked: what clothes to wear in professional situations.

JACKSON TWP.  One of the first decisions that many people make early each day, often under time pressure, is what to wear.

On Saturday, Belden Village Mall, Kent State University at Stark and its partners put on a professional apparel contest between KSU at Stark students at the mall. They wanted to show the importance being able to quickly judge what the best clothes are to wear in different professional situations, such as a job interview for graduate school, a meeting with a client on casual Friday or an after-work dinner with a coworker and supervisor.

The event also promoted the opening for the Flash's Professional Closet Donation Station at the mall, which accepts donations of gently-used professional apparel that will be given to Kent students. Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and Central Ohio and the Express clothing store at the mall also helped to put on the event by providing clothing, shoes and accessories. Any donated items not distributed to students will go to Goodwill, said Rylie Woods of Kent Stark who oversees Flash's.

The challenge

The Proper Presentation Challenge took place at the mall's Center Court by Macy's. The contestants were four Kent Stark students who serve as peer advocates, a role similar to that of resident assistants. Team A was comprised of Shauna Contumelio, 22, of Canton and Caya Smarr, 21, of the North Canton area. The members of Team B were Sydney Hutmacher, 20, of Green and Shane Viland, 31, a Kent State at Stark senior from New Philadelphia.

Their challenge was to choose at least two pieces of apparel, shoes or accessories from the Express rack and two pieces of apparel, shoes or accessories from the Goodwill rack to come up with an outfit for a man or woman that would best fit a professional situation outlined by the moderator Gina Bannevich, the mall's marketing director. They were given two minutes to place the clothing on male or female mannequins in each of five rounds.

The judges were Chris Paveloi, Kent Stark's assistant director for career services; Sarah Gott, an Akron-based arts blogger for Goodwill; Lauren Baier, the manager of the mall's Express store and Valarie Nash, the deputy director of human resources and support services for Summit County Children Services.

In the first round, the two teams had to come up with the best outfits for a university-sponsored student development conference.

Team A placed a long-sleeved, white patterned shirt on their female mannequin with black dress slacks, a professional black jacket, shoes with moderately high heels and a bracelet. Team B struggled to put on a maroon dress on their female mannequin with a jacket.

"I thought the zipper was all the way down," Hutmacher said. "Then it wasn't. Then there was a belt. And we had to take the belt off because the mannequin's (chest) were too big for it to just slip over."

Nash said about Team A, "they chose a very simple outfit. The thing I love about a jacket is depending on a temperature in a room you can take it off as long as what you have underneath by itself looks nice. That's a nice blouse. Stand-alone. But if you are cold, you can keep the jacket on. Sensible shoes. Not too high. ... Team B I think had a really good idea. So I feel for them that it was a little difficult to execute trying to get the full dress on the mannequin."

Team B rallied in the next few rounds to keep it close, but ultimately Team A prevailed by six points. The four students won $20, $50 or $100 gift cards for Macy's, Express and Goodwill.

"I learned how to dress a girl," said Viland.

Contumelio said, "I'll definitely wear everything that we dressed our mannequin in."


Reach Robert at (330) 580-8327 or robert.wang@cantonrep.com. On Twitter: @rwangREP.