Justyce Pinkney

Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

College/School: School of Integrated Science and Humanity, College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Justyce Pinkney grew up in some of the toughest neighborhoods in South Miami-Dade. Her parents struggled to make ends meet. Of five siblings, she is the first to earn a college degree.

Justyce wanted to break a cycle. Her older brothers never finished high school and were in constant legal trouble. Her older sister became pregnant before the end of her senior year. Although she had no role model herself, she became one for her younger sister.

As a full-time student, Justyce worked part time at Coconut Grove Cares-The Barnyard to support her four nieces and nephews while caring for her grandmother who was diagnosed with cancer.

With the advice of Jeanette Cruz from FIU’s Student Support Services Program, Justyce applied for a McNair fellowship and was accepted. Alongside Bethany Reeb-Sutherland, she is examining the neurobiology of children with autism spectrum disorder using eye blinking conditioning. She determined — for the first time — that children with autism display deficits in their eyeblink conditioning unlike typically developing preschoolers. This suggests cerebellar impairments may serve as potential biomarkers for autism.

Less than 1 percent of African American women successfully complete a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) degree. As a first-generation, African American and Puerto Rican student from a low-income home, Justyce has defied those odds by earning her bachelor’s in psychology.

After graduation, Justyce wants to pursue a Ph.D. and advocate for children who, like her, come from low-income communities and promote resiliency so they, too, can break their own barriers to success.

By Ayleen Barbel Fattal, Account Manager
College of Arts, Sciences & Education