A Milwaukee woman is proving to the world that having an eccentric name won’t stop her from her dreams and fulfilling her educational goals.
See, her name is Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck and after eight years of studying she just received her PhD in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education from Wisconsin’s Cardinal Stritch University.
No: she doesn’t smoke and she’s not a huge fan of pop.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Marijuana Pepsi, 46, stressed that while everyone told her to change her name, she refused to do so. She told the newspaper that her mother Maggie Johnson picked out her name and declared it would take her daughter around the world.
Meanwhile, two sisters whose named are Kimberly and Robin.
While the mother-of-four and grandmother admits that growing up she was constantly teased by peers and adults, she says that pain helped shape who she is today.
“I’ve grown into my name because I am a strong woman. I’ve had to be,” Marijuana Pepsi told the TODAY Show back in 2009.
Even better? The name of her dissertation was called, “Black names in white classrooms: Teacher behaviors and student perceptions.”
She told the Journal Sentinel that she spent part of research interviewing Black students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater about the effect of their distinctly black names on their treatment by teachers and on their academic achievement.
Let her tell it: The young people were eager to share their experiences with her. And she always lets those students know that while her teachers never pushed college on her because they assumed she wouldn’t amount to much, she persevered, and they can too.
“Regardless of what they do, say or what they’re trying to put in place, you still have to move forward and succeed,” Dr. Pepsi stresses.
Adding, “That’s my big thing. Don’t use that as an excuse. Use that as a steppingstone to keep on going. Leave those people behind and then you reach back. Each one reach one. Reach back and pull somebody else up.”
In addition to teaching and running a performance coaching company, Vandyck, who lives on a farm with her husband, started an annual scholarship award for Black students enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Congrats Dr. Pepsi!