2020 Woman of Distinction – Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck

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Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck (Inclusive Excellence Lecturer, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater)

While growing up in Beloit, it didn’t take long for Marijuana Pepsi to feel the effects of her name. Once teased by classmates for her name, she says with her family’s support, she was eventually able to overcome and realize her name gave her strength.

Marijuana earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, her Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration from Georgia Southern University, and a Ph.D in Higher Education Leadership from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, WI.

While earning her Ph.D, Marijuana wrote a dissertation on uncommon black names in the classroom. Her dissertation, ‘Black Names in White Classrooms: Teacher Behaviors and Student Perceptions,’ analyzed how black students with distinctive names are treated by educators in predominantly white settings, and how that treatment plays into academic performance.

The effort earned her the ‘Dr.’ before her name, now as Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck, she was recognized not only in local media outlets, but nationally and internationally as well. The story appeared in places like the Huffington Post, CNN, online blogs and BBC News.

Dr. Vandyck currently serves as an Inclusive Excellence Lecturer at UW-Whitewater in the College of Education & Professional Studies, a program with the goal of increasing the numbers of faculty of color. Prior to taking on this role, Dr. Vandyck served as the director of the Department of Education funded TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Program at Beloit College serving first generation, low income, and multi-ability students.

A firm believer in giving back and uplifting others, Dr. Vandyck established the Marijuana Pepsi Scholarship for first generation African-American students enrolled at UW-Whitewater, her alma mater.

Marijuana loves reading historical romance novels, camping, fishing, and kayaking alongside her husband Fredrick and son Isaac when not working on their three acre hobby farm which typically houses two pigs, 13 ducks, 15 chickens, and 110 guinea fowl.