FPN Alumni Stories | Katrina Serpa | Master in Forensic Psychology
Katrina Serpa moved from Coral Springs, Florida, US, to Maastricht to combine her interests in criminology and psychology and study the Master in Forensic Psychology. She graduated in 2015 after completing the programme, including a 2nd year internship at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Global Institute of Forensic Research
“Professor Corine de Ruiter’s mentorship helped me find my way to the career path I’m on now”. Serpa was introduced to Professor Jay Singh in 2014 during a masterclass on risk assessment in the first year of her master. He was named the youngest tenured Full Professor in Norway. At the time, Singh was starting the Global Institute of Forensic Research (GIFR) and he was looking for collaborations to help with quality assurance for a training he was developing. “I figured my passion has always been bridging the gap between research and real-world application, so this would be a great experience”. Singh was impressed by the work she had done and upon graduation offered a position for her to work for GIFR. “There I discovered that I enjoyed curriculum and training development, and it was that exact bridge that I was looking for.”
The next challenge
Serpa served as GIFR’s Director of Program Development for 2 years working with organisations from around the world to leverage training, research, and data analytics to increase public safety. In 2017, leading publisher of scientifically validated assessments for more than 30 years, Multi-Health Systems Inc. (MHS) acquired GIFR and due to Serpa’s essential role in GIFR’s success, was offered the position of Training Consultant for MHS’ Public Safety Division. A year and half later, she was contacted by Singh, to be invited to be a co-editor of what would end up becoming the Handbook of Forensic Mental Health in Africa.
Forensic Mental Health in Africa
The lead editor Adegboyega Ogunwale is the chief consultant psychiatrist at the Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Nigeria and is one of the country’s mental health thought leaders. Due to Serpa’s background in forensic psychology, Singh and Ogunwale saw Serpa’s expertise as a good match for the book. As an early career professional, the chance to collaborate on a book was an amazing opportunity for Serpa. Forensic Mental Health in Africa is in its early stages and not yet a big field of research on the continent. “Dr. Ogunwale noticed a lack of knowledge and tools in the field and wanted to create a handbook that could be used to give professionals the means to offer resources on evidence-based best practices.” Knowing that the ‘Western’ research was not always going to transfer directly to Africa, Ogunwale wanted to create a book that considers cultural differences when implementing Western-validated practices on the continent while establishing state-of-the-art assessment and treatment of justice-involved persons in Africa. He gathered leading experts across Africa to start work on this handbook. And he was in need of another editor, preferably one with expertise on risk assessment: enter Katrina Serpa.
“I’ve always been lucky to have great mentors, first Corine and then Jay. They had faith and took a chance on me”. Now after almost 3 years of production, and hard work, the Handbook of Forensic Mental Health in Africa has been published. Marking Serpa’s first book.
“The guidance I received throughout my graduate studies truly set me on a path that allowed for opportunities like this to be possible for me. And I am forever grateful. I’m always looking to make Maastricht proud!”