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‘Marijuana Pepsi’ Earns Doctorate with Dissertation on Uncommon Names

Snicker all you want; Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck has heard all the jokes anyway. Not only is the performance coach, teacher, and mother unashamed of her name, but she’s continually refused to let the perceptions of others limit her ability to achieve.

From the time she arrived at Cardinal Stritch University as a freshman, she vowed to earn both her master’s and her doctorate, longing for the day when people would call her “Dr. Marijuana Pepsi.” And after eight years of studying and commuting, she finally fulfilled that vow.

"People make such a big deal out of it, I couldn't get away from it," Vandyck said in an interview . People judged her mother for the choice of name, but she credits her mom for raising her with a strong will and an inner drive for achievement. She recalls many times growing up when teachers would interrupt roll call to conduct impromptu interviews surrounding her name. "I'm sorry," she replied once. "You didn't ask anyone else that. Why are you asking me? My name is Marijuana, thank you."

Those experiences helped not only develop a firm spine and a sense of dedication, but in general pointed her toward a scholarly exploration of how African American students with uncommon names are treated in the classroom. Her doctoral dissertation was titled, Black names in white classrooms: Teacher behaviors and student perceptions.”

Anytime she enters a classroom, she can immediately grab students’ attention just by introducing herself. "Regardless of what they do, say, or what they're trying to put in place," she says, "You still have to move forward and succeed.”

Potential Preaching Angles: Though names have meaning, we are not bound to their fate; God delights in providing redemption and relief to those whose names portend hardship and frustration.

Jenna Amatulli, “Woman Named Marijuana Pepsi Earns Ph.D. With Dissertation on Uncommon Names” HuffPost (6-20-19)

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