Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck, a 46-year-old woman from Wisconsin, was teased for much of her life for having an uncommon name, however, she never changed it. This past week, she silenced those trolls when she earned her PhD in higher education leadership from Cardinal Stritch University, after completing her dissertation, “Black names in white classrooms: Teacher behaviors and student perceptions.”
During an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Vandyck detailed the backlash she received on account of her moniker, and how she's stronger because of it. "People make such a big deal out of it, I couldn't get away from it," she explains. Despite the blame many placed on her mother for giving her that name, Vandyck credits her for turning her into the powerful, ambitious woman she is today.
Some people refused to call Marijuana by her full name and attempted to opt for "Mary" instead, but Vandyck rejected such nicknames. The only time Marijuana did alter her title was when she was working as a real estate agent. She went by "MP" so that stoners wouldn't take her signs.
While researching and writing her doctoral milestone, Marijuana interviewed students with similar experiences, whose teachers made fun of or harped on 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."
Additionally, when asked about her position on the legalization of marijuana debate, Vandyck said that she's more focused on those who have been incarcerated for possessing the drug, which state governments are increasingly legalizing. "I would like to see all their sentences overturned," she explains. "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.