Alumni Spotlight: Nikki Cote '15, Softball

Nikki Cote '15 in action as a pitcher at Brandeis, and today as a PA in Connecticut

Alumni Spotlights are Q&A's with former Brandeis student-athletes, across a myriad of disciplines, as they reflect on their Brandeis experience and how it has shaped their lives today. Read more spotlight features here

Name: Nikki Cote '15
Job Title: Certified Physician Assistant
Institution: Danbury Hospital

Nikki Cote '15 came to Brandeis from Shelton, Connecticut. The daughter of a college pitching coach, she started playing softball when she was five and started pitching as a 12-year-old. At Brandeis, she overcame injuries as a first-year to become a top pitcher under coach Jessica Johnson, eventually taking home MVP honors from the 2015 ECAC tournament. She ranks 10th on the University's career strikeout list with 174. Cote was also presented with the Sid Goldfader '54 Award of Valor - she pitched under pressure despite being partially deaf
Cote received her B.S. in Health: Science, Society and Policy from Brandeis in 2015, and in 2019 earned her M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Bridgeport. Since October 2019, she has worked as a surgery PA at the Danbury Hospital in Connecticut. In addition to her work supporting orthopedics, neurosurgery and urology, since 2020, she has been helping the hospital deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cote is engaged to be married to Robert Gibbs in August 2022. 

Describe your overall experience as a student-athlete. What does it mean to you now/what did it mean to you while you were an undergraduate?

My overall experience as a student-athlete was beyond my expectations. Brandeis allowed me to fulfill my dreams of becoming a collegiate softball pitcher while also receiving the best academic education I could have asked for. I didn't realize that I was going to develop lifelong relationships. It's nice to reflect on that, realizing now how many athletes I knew on a first-name basis during my days working at Gosman.

What originally attracted you to Brandeis as a student-athlete? 

I met Coach Jessica Johnson at a recruiting softball showcase. As a prospective student, I knew that I wanted to go into the medical profession but I really wanted to play softball at a collegiate level. When I visited the campus during my overnight recruiting trip and saw the athletic complex, I instantly fell in love. Even as a recruit, I felt welcome, as if I was already a part of the team and university. I knew that I belonged at Brandeis right from that moment forward.

How did your time as a student and student-athlete at Brandeis prepare you for your career and life after college?

I took some classes with my favorite professor, Maria Miara, including Comparative Anatomy and Biology of Sports and Exercises. These classes helped shape me for my career. As a student-athlete, I learned proper time management, which was key to my success during the pursuit of my Physician Assistant degree. Not to mention, the athletic department was diligent about our academic studies, which required us to attend study hall and forced us to balance academic and athletic priorities.

Do you have any advice for current or future Brandeis Student-Athletes?

While you are walking on campus, take the moment and stop to enjoy the campus. You will consistently go between studying, practicing, and game time. These four years will fly by before you realize it. Embrace everything that comes your way. You will have stressful and tiring moments but if you put 100% effort into your work ethic, you will succeed. 

What do you miss most about your Brandeis experience?

There are so many things that I miss about my Brandeis journey, but the biggest thing is being with my softball teammates. They made a huge overall impact on my college experience and athletic career. Even beyond that, I just miss walking into the gym - what I considered my home away from home - and experiencing all the warm interactions between the athletes and faculty. I miss the friendly faces I used to see daily and it makes me appreciate my time at Brandeis as a student-athlete even more today.

What personal or professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of since you graduated?

After I graduated from Brandeis University, I started my journey to become a Physician Assistant, which was a lifelong dream of mine. I attended the University of Bridgeport Physician Assistant Program and graduated in 2019. I began to work as a Surgical Physician Assistant at Danbury Hospital, working mainly in orthopedics/spine, urology, neurosurgery and plastics. On another note, I am currently engaged to the love of my life, Robert Gibbs, and will be marrying him in August 2022.

What has it been like being a PA during COVID? 

I started working at Danbury Hospital in October 2019. We first started seeing some cases in March 2020. I was still fairly new to my profession when I was told that I had to start working in the COVID Intensive Care Unit. From March to June of 2020, those were the toughest months of my career. With so many unknowns, it was extremely challenging and somewhat terrifying to be in the frontlines. However, I collaborated with many great medical professionals to take care of the patients. As a result of this unexpected and intense experience, I grew a lot very quickly early on in my career.

This interview was lightly edited for clarity.