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A Wisconsin woman is proving to the world that having an eccentric name won’t stop her from her fulfilling her dreams and 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.

And be clear: Despite her name, she doesn’t smoke nor is she a huge fan of soda pop.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that 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, her two sisters are named Kimberly and Robin.

While the mother-of-four and grandmother-of-one 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 her research interviewing Black students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater about the effect their distinctly Black names had 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!


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Black Woman Named Marijuana Pepsi Earns PhD After Completing Dissertation On ‘Black-Sounding’ Names  was originally published on