Q&A with Meagan McKenna
California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University
MA and PsyD in Clinical Psychology, San Diego
Forensic Psychologist at Direct Care and Treatment-Forensic Services with the Minnesota Department of Human Services
Q: How did your Alliant experience prepare you for your career path?
Alliant provided unparalleled clinical training and allowed me to establish a network of support. Moreover, by requiring a breadth of clinical practicum experiences, as well as participation in our own therapy, Alliant provided me an advantage over many of the other APA applicants I came across during interview season. I found that the specialized training afforded to me by the forensic emphasis and my variety of clinical practicum experiences, made me a highly qualified applicant and opened the doors to many internship opportunities. Following internship, I again found myself as highly competitive compared to other postdoctoral candidates. I repeatedly came across other Alliant graduates and the university held a reputation of shaping strong clinicians and examiners. I continue to rely on the support networks I established as a student and regularly engage with previous professors and advisors. Alliant facilitated the development of the skills I needed to become successful in my chosen field, while also allowing me to grow personally. Additionally, the opportunity to work as a TA instilled in me a love for teaching, and I now work as a faculty member at Hamline University.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?
In my current work as a forensic psychologist, I provide quality and low-cost forensic psychological evaluations for criminal courts in outlying and rural areas of Minnesota. I get to interact with diverse populations, engage in exciting and challenging evaluations, and provide services that many would not have access or resources to obtain otherwise. Without our examiner groups, many defendants would experience delayed evaluation time, longer wait periods in jails, and experience increased delays in receiving necessary, sometimes lifesaving, mental health interventions. I make my own schedule and largely work from home, making the flexibility of my schedule my dog’s favorite aspect of my work. :) I can honestly say there is never a dull day, and I learn something new on almost a daily basis. I love assisting in the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program as I enjoy getting to train and shape the next generation of forensic psychologists. I additionally love providing expert testimony in various Minnesota Courts and find this both challenging and rewarding.
Q: What inspires you to make a positive difference in the world?
I have committed the entirety of my clinical career to underserved and marginalized populations, as these individuals often have the least access and most need for quality mental health care. I am driven by a desire for perpetual self-growth and to give back to the community I serve. I have a passion for continued learning, increased access to quality mental health services, and to work collaboratively with colleagues in my community. I hope to continue working towards eliminating barriers for treatment within marginalized communities and giving a voice to those who often go over-looked in our communities.
Q: Any advice you have for current students.
I would encourage students to become actively involved in their program – join a club, enter a leadership position, apply for a TA position, offer to assist in a trusted advisor’s research. The networks you develop as a student will forever be of benefit and likely open many doors in your future career endeavors. Don’t be afraid to try new things, in fact, seek out new and anxiety producing experiences. This is your opportunity to try working with a variety of populations in different settings. You will not be afforded the opportunity to “try on jobs” like this in the future. Apply yourself, work hard, and most importantly, give yourself some grace and compassion. You are bound to make mistakes and/or have setbacks, but that is what learning is about. Luckily, you will have a great team at Alliant to help you overcome any barriers you encounter. Enjoy this time, because at some point, you will look back fondly and miss these days.
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