46-year-old Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck of Wisconsin silenced the naysayers she’s encountered her whole life after earning her Ph.D. in higher education leadership from Cardinal Stritch University.
Vandyck was teased for much of her life for having an uncommon name. However, she never changed it and didn’t let the torment deter her from making strides in her life. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, she detailed the backlash she received over her name and how it’s made her stronger.
“People make such a big deal out of it, I couldn’t get away from it,” Vandyck explained. Although many blame her mother for giving her the name, Vandyck credits her mom for turning her into the powerful and ambitious woman she has become.
While researching and writing her dissertation, ”Black names in white classrooms: Teacher behaviors and student perceptions,” Vandyck interviewed students with similar experiences and whose teachers have made fun of them on account of their names. “Regardless of what they do, say, or what they’re trying to put in place, you still have to move forward and succeed,” she tells students. “That’s my big thing. Don’t use that as an excuse. Use that as a stepping stone 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 regards to the legalization of marijuana debate, Vandyck said she’s more focused on those incarcerated for marijuana now that state governments are increasingly legalizing it. “I would like to see all their sentences overturned. These people were locked up for making money from the sale of marijuana, and now that the government has figured out ways to make the money themselves, it is ‘legal’ and, further, encouraged.”
Congratulations to Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck!