College of Science students named UTA royalty

Psychology majors, best friends honored as Homecoming King, Queen

Wednesday, Dec 06, 2023 • Greg Pederson :

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Florencio Gobellan and Daniela Ventura after being named UTA Homecoming King and Queen on November 10.


What began as a random idea led to a crowning achievement for Daniela Ventura and Florencio Gobellan.

The University of Texas at Arlington psychology majors and best friends decided to campaign for UTA 2023 Homecoming Queen and King together and when the results of voting were announced, they were revealed as the winners.

I pitched the idea to Florencio at the beginning of the semester,” Ventura said. I felt as if my involvement and experiences at UTA so far had made me a well-rounded person and would make me a good candidate. I wanted to deepen my connection with UTA even more and make the most out of my senior year by putting myself out there and going after something that may have seemed unattainable at first.

Gobellan said when he came to UTA as a freshman, he was “shy and scared” until he met Ventura and they formed a supportive network of friends.

When Daniela brought up the idea of running, it seemed like a faraway dream,” Gobellan said. But it was because of the support of our wonderful friends that we decided to do it. I did it to give courage to those who think that goals are unreachable, because remember, as Daniela says, ‘Do not be afraid to go after things that seem unattainable! Be kind and humble and good things will come your way.’ “

The coronation ceremony took place November 10 during halftime of the UTA women’s basketball game against Lamar in College Park Center. The Homecoming King winner was announced first.

I was in shock! I wanted to win but I had prepared myself for failure, so hearing my name being called was truly a dream come true,” Gobellan said. The first thing I thought about was the first time that I set foot on campus at UTA. Never in a thousand years did I imagine that the shy freshman would become University royalty.

Then it was time to reveal the Homecoming Queen. Even before she heard her name called, Ventura was in tears.

By the time I got announced, I already had watery eyes after seeing my best friend Florencio get crowned as King,” she said. We ran for our positions and campaigned together, so for both of us to win, it meant a lot. I was nervous, excited and in disbelief all at the same time. All that was going through my mind was wanting to go hug my friends and tell everyone who supported me through my campaign.

Ventura, a senior who grew up in Carrollton, attended Dallas College for two years and when it came time to decide where to transfer, she said UTA topped her list.

UTA caught my eye because of how diverse I had heard the campus is and because it is a Hispanic serving institution,” she said. I decided to take a tour and immediately knew it was where I belonged. Everyone I met was extremely welcoming and encouraging which as a first-generation student, that meant a lot to me.

She took an interest in psychology because she noticed there was a large stigma surrounding mental health in the Latino community in which she grew up.

I knew I wanted to break those barriers by becoming knowledgeable in the subject of psychology,” Ventura said.

At Dallas College, her psychology professor was passionate about the subject which pushed Ventura to want to pursue it further, she said.

What I love about psychology is that it is such a versatile field. You can do so much with psychology from counseling to consulting,” Ventura said. There are so many passionate individuals in the field that truly want to make an impact regardless of what branch of psychology they are in.

“My favorite thing about it is how much knowledge I have gained into understanding human complexities and behaviors because it has grown my empathy and patience even more. I have seen first-hand a change within my own family in their attitude towards mental health and psychology due to me dedicating my academic career to it.

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Best friends Florencio Gobellan and Daniela Ventura decided to run for Homecoming King and Queen at the start of the fall semester.

Ventura has taken advantage of the opportunity to get involved in research during her undergraduate studies at UTA. She was selected for the McNair Scholars program, which prepares students who are first-generation college students or underrepresented in graduate education for doctoral studies. Last summer, Ventura participated in the McNair Summer Research Internship. She worked under the mentorship of Tracy Greer, Penson Endowed Professor in Clinical Health Psychology, and Crystal Cooper, adjunct assistant professor in psychology.

The title of my project was ‘Evaluating Reward-based Processing and its Clinical Correlates in Adolescents with Epilepsy and Comorbid Psychiatric Disorders,” she said. I got the opportunity to identify and analyze if adolescents with epilepsy differ in how they process feedback, such as reward, from their typically developing peers and if that correlates with depression and anxiety symptoms.”

Gobellan, a junior from Garland who is minoring in medical humanities and biomedical ethics, says he fell in love with UTA when he toured campus for the first time. He also loved that UTA is designated a Hispanic-serving institution by the U.S. Department of Education and is committed to helping Hispanic and Latino students succeed.

“I absolutely love the family feeling that UTA has, and the diversity at UTA is another factor that led me to choose Maverick Country,” he said. “I wanted to go somewhere that had students who share the same identity as me, and a school that celebrates our culture.

As a kid, one of Gobellan’s favorite toys was a lab coat and science experiment kit. When his grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he asked his parents what it was.

“Them not really knowing the answer sparked my interest in researching diseases such as Parkinson’s and dementia,” he said. Majoring in psychology allows me to study how complex the brain is while learning about the biological and social aspects of humans. That’s why I decided to major in psychology.

My favorite organ in the human body is the brain; it’s so interesting and complex. That’s the thing I love about psychology—it allows me to study the brain in depth while getting a well-rounded understanding of the whole person. Psychology allows me to do cutting-edge research to understand and find long-term solutions for neurological disorders and diseases.

Gobellan is also involved in research. He previously worked in the neuroscience lab of Perry Fuchs and recently joined Greer’s Functional and Cognitive Wellness Lab, where he is working alongside Ventura to study adolescents with epilepsy and how their reaction time and reward processing are affected by the disorder.

Both Ventura and Gobellan are highly involved in campus activities. Ventura serves as vice president for the Psychology Society student organization and is also an officer for the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). She is a UTA Ambassador, a College of Science senator in the Student Senate, and a CAPS (Counseling & Psychological Services) Ambassador. She also works as an academic peer coach in the Academic Success Center.

Gobellan is president of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students and is a College of Science senator. He is also coordinator for the UTA Ambassadors program and is a member of the Hispanic Leadership Council.

I strive to represent, mentor, and inspire students in the variety of leadership roles that I’m part of while bringing positive change to the University,” he said.

Both say they look forward to serving as Homecoming King and Queen over the next year and to crowning their successors during next year’s Homecoming activities.

Over the next year, I will hold the title with great pride and honor as I get to represent first generation Latinas,” Ventura said.

Added her best friend, Gobellan, “I will strive to represent the University well and I hope to be an inspiration to future generations of Latinos in STEM and in higher education.


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