Spring grad made the most of Honors College opportunities

4 – minute read

If all goes as planned, Dominique Berrette will begin medical school in fall 2025. The highly decorated spring graduate from Fort Myers wants to become a doctor and is applying to programs this summer.


Until the next academic chapter in her life begins, she will work as a medical assistant in an orthopedic office. If asked about her time at Florida Gulf Coast University, she’ll likely single out her Honors College experience.


“If your goal is to go through college trying to do as much as you can, the Honors College has to be the way to go because there’s really so much that you can do and so many people you can meet,” she said. “I highly recommend it.”


Berrette — whose siblings Ronald and Danielle graduated from FGCU in 2023 — majored in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience and cognition and minored in biology.

FGCU graduate Dominique Berrette
Dominique Berrette

She garnered several honors, including 2024 Undergraduate Student of the Year for both the Honors College and the College of Arts & Sciences. She was also inducted into the FGCU Hall of Fame.


She spoke of numerous ways the Honors College empowered her to pursue one great opportunity after another in several areas.


One of these was research. For three years, she worked under the direction of Starlette Sinclair, an assistant professor of psychology, and Nate Pipitone, an associate professor of psychology. The research with Sinclair enabled Berrette to attend several conferences. At a Cognitive Aging Conference, she served as a first author of research that examined how age relates to non-cognitive skills and imposter syndrome.


“It was pretty cool,” Berrette said. “I got to learn a lot about how research worked.”

FGCU grad Dominique Berrette

After Berrette befriended fellow Honors student Andrew Parra (’23, psychology), the two decided to conduct research together under Pipitone’s supervision. This culminated in their co-authoring not one but two Honors theses — an accomplishment only one other Eagle has achieved.


One of the duo’s papers reviewed the literature on care theories for treating multiple forms of dementia. The other thesis reviewed synaptic retrogenesis theory, which proposes that Alzheimer’s/dementia causes cognitive deterioration in the reverse order of how a brain developed since birth.


“Essentially, you’re coming back, cognition-wise, to the state of a baby,” Berrette said of how synaptic retrogenesis is thought to unfold. 

“It’s really interesting. Basically, our thesis was just acquiring all the evidence toward synaptic retrogenesis to discuss whether there’s validity to the theory. We determined that there is validity to the theory for sure.”


“It was interesting … to delve so deeply into a topic and understand very specific things about that topic,” she said. “It’s a really cool experience. You feel more like you’re really getting the most out of your topic.”


In addition to research opportunities, the Honors College became a great way for Berrette to make connections that could broaden her horizons or strengthen her resume. Sinclair, an Honors faculty fellow, suggested that Berrette pursue a Millennium Fellowship. The semester-long leadership development program is designed to help students enhance their organizational and community impact skills through projects examining global issues through a local lens. 

With the fellowship, Berrette spent fall 2022 collecting items such as dental floss, toothbrushes, toothpaste, eyeglasses, skin lotion and sunscreen. These were distributed at health screenings she participated in for the Global Medical Brigades, for which she served as a chief of staff and eventually vice president. The screenings took place in Southwest Florida, Panama, Honduras and Guatemala.


Berrette’s Brigades experiences — along with those in a fellowship she received through the Summer Health Professions Education Program at the University of Washington — helped solidify her wish to become a doctor. Among other things, the program offered courses on medical issues that disproportionately affect certain groups, and it had her shadow at two Seattle clinics.

FGCU graduate Dominique Berrette

Another benefit of the Honors College Berrette took advantage of is leadership development. Berrette served as a mentor and student ambassador, for which she advocated for the college in several settings, including a local high school and an FGCU first-year class.


Berrette also sat on the Honors College Executive Board, where she and three other student representatives offered their input on issues of importance to the college. These included increasing the number of student members and faculty fellows and developing ways to encourage more students to get the most of an Honors experience.


Today, Berrette seems both satisfied and surprised by all she accomplished at FGCU.


“I knew I wanted to get the most out of college,” she said. “But I didn’t expect to do as much as I did.”

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