Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck, earned her Ph.D. from Wisconsin’s Cardinal Stritch University after completing her dissertation, “Black names in white classrooms: Teacher behaviors and student perceptions.”
What We Know:
- The 46-year-old, who earned her Ph.D. in leadership for the advancement of learning and service in higher education, shared with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel her inspiration behind her dissertation topic. She detailed that although she got teased about her name for most of her life, her experience only made her stronger. “People make such a big deal out of it, I couldn’t get away from it,” she said.
- During her research, she interviewed several students who reported different treatment from their teachers. “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.”
- Vandyck was born in 1972, a time Marijuana use was “rampant.” After smoking it, her parents liked to cool off with a can of Pepsi. Vandyck’s aunt Mayetta Jackson told the Journal Sentinel, “I thought it was crazy, but they were such fun-loving people that it suited them.”
- Despite the blame her mother received for giving her that name, Vandyck credits her for raising her to be the strong and ambitious woman she is today. Instead, she embraced her name and refused to be called nicknames like Mary or Mary Jane.
- Vandyck currently works as the director of a program at Beloit College that serves students who come from low-income backgrounds, are first-generation college students, or have disabilities. She is also considering working as a professor. On the side, she works as a life coach and sells real estate.
Vandyck is also creating a scholarship named after her, which will give $500 every year to a deserving first-generation African American student enrolled at University of Wisconsin Whitewater. The first scholarship will be given out in the Fall.