Pink Hair Pledge Motivates Students


Hope Stunkel and Angela Dunlap visit in the Learning Commons.

When Illinois Valley Community College’s Angela Dunlap dyed her hair pink early this year to fulfill a pledge to a student, she enjoyed the immediate feedback.

Someone asked if she was joining a rock band. Another wondered if she wanted to be Katy Perry. Two friends at a restaurant failed to recognize her: “Do we know you?” they asked.

It’s all been worth it for Dunlap, campus and community tutoring coordinator.

Late last semester, Hope Stunkel of Standard was struggling in Statistics taught by Tom Tunnell and needed to do well on the final. She made a proposal to Dunlap in the Peer Tutoring Center.

“If I can get an 80 or higher on my final, you can have pink hair,” Stunkel suggested. Dunlap was happy to oblige.

“It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. How can you say no to that?”

Dunlap used it as motivation for Stunkel.

“Hope was occasionally having trouble focusing and was talking to other people in the Tutoring Center instead of working on her homework,” Dunlap said. “I would ask her, ‘Hope, do you want me to have pink hair?’ She would say ‘yes’ and focus again.”

Stunkel, a freshman who plans to eventually study criminal justice at Illinois State University, scored an 85 on the final and Dunlap fulfilled her pledge just before the start of classes in January.

“Prior to last semester, I can’t say I had ever hoped I would end up with pink hair, but by the end of the semester, I really was hoping that I would have pink hair,” she said.

A 20-year IVCC employee, Dunlap prepared to tutor statistics three years earlier by taking Tunnell’s course herself at night.

“I was helping students all day long in stats and needed to know it well,” she said.

The reaction to her “social experiment” has been “99 percent positive,” she said, noting it has made her more approachable.

“Apparently, pink hair says ‘Come up and talk to me,’” Dunlap said. “The only downside is I can’t do anything secretly.”

Dunlap recalls an IVCC basketball player in the tutoring center asking coach Chris Herman, “Hey coach, I’ll get straight A’s if you dye your hair pink.”

Asked to name the color of Dunlap’s hair, a colleague called it “Happiness.” “I didn’t think about the consequences when I promised this, but they have all been good,” Dunlap said.

Another fellow educator, praising Dunlap’s commitment, said it well: “What we won’t do for our students.”