2020 Personal Financial Planning Awards

We went virtual to honor the program’s best and brightest

This year, we virtually celebrate our annual Personal Financial Planning Awards. Hosts Brian Kozel, 2020 chair of the program’s Advisory Board, and Heather Liston, the program director, highlight a collection of outstanding students and instructors to reflect on their stories.

Brian: It is no secret that this is a time of great financial stress, when families and individuals in the Bay Area and beyond would benefit from wise counsel, blending the technical and personal skills needed to navigate financial decisions amidst the global health crisis and all of its impacts.

It is with this mission—cultivating and developing world-class financial planners—that we proudly move forward as a program. One of our key stakeholders in that mission is our sponsors, who generously support our efforts each year, and, more importantly, who employ and hire our students in meaningful, professional roles. We are grateful to these sponsors for their past support and look forward to a continued partnership in years to come.

2020 Outstanding Student: Jennifer Maneatis

Presented by Kurt Carrasquilla: In our program, we are fortunate to attract the best and the brightest, and this year’s Outstanding Student is no exception. Inside the classroom, she is excellent at leading discussion and commanding respect from her peers. Outside of the classroom, Jennifer works at a firm as a sought-after financial planner.

Accepted by Jennifer Maneatis

Screenshot of Jennifer Maneatis

I want to start by saying that I hope everyone is doing well during these unprecedented and very uncertain times. My heart goes out to anyone affected either directly or indirectly.

I want to extend my deepest thanks to the Personal Financial Planning Board. I am beyond honored to have been selected as the 2020 Outstanding Student. I've always strived to optimize my time spent in the classroom through my years of schooling by interacting with classmates and professors and always asking questions. If you've had me in a class, you know I am not shy if I need further clarification.

My experience through Berkeley's program has been nothing short of phenomenal. It has been the perfect environment to actively participate in and to create many meaningful professional relationships that will stretch beyond our time spent in this program.

As I wrap up my last two classes and look ahead to studying for the CFP® Exam, I look forward to putting everything into practice in my day-to-day role at First Republic as a dedicated planner.

To Kurt, thanks for ridding me of my fear of the complexities of investments, and to Heather for helping me to discover how much I truly do love the inner workings of our tax code—go figure. Thank you again.

Check out Jennifer Maneatis' LinkedIn page.

2020 Outstanding Student Finalist: Sarah Sprague Gerber

Presented by Rich Arzaga: Sarah Sprague Gerber—better known to us as Sarah Sprague until she got married this past September—is an accomplished classmate and colleague. Voted this year by instructors as one of the top three students in our program, Sarah is thought of as someone who has worked hard while making it look effortless.

Accepted by Sarah Sprague Gerber

Screenshot of Sarah Sprague Gerber

Thank you very much for bestowing this honor on me. I've learned so much from my teachers and classmates. I use the course content every day in my forward momentum.

Read more about Sarah's educational journey.

2020 Outstanding Student Finalist: Laura McDowell

Presented by Catherine Bradford: In class, Laura was never satisfied with just knowing the right answer, but always needed to understand the why behind the answer. This gave her the proper context to learn. In addition to her academic accomplishments, Laura was a leader in our Student Advisory Board, executing new events like the now annual Test Preparation Company Panel Discussion and the Speed Mentoring evening.

Accepted by Laura McDowell

Screenshot of Laura McDowell

The caliber of talented, hardworking and dedicated classmates is truly inspiring. I am proud of each and every one of us for putting in the hard work needed to get the most out of this program.

View Laura's LinkedIn page.

2020 Professional Advisory Board Scholarship Winner: Patricia Johnson

Presented by Brian Kozel: Patricia came to financial planning through a cause near and dear to my own heart: financial literacy education. Patricia founded the nonprofit Game Theory Academy, which teaches strategic decision-making and financial skills to low-income and at-risk teens in the Bay Area. When Patricia began her formal path toward becoming a financial adviser, I was excited to see it come through our program, and we are excited to support her in that mission.

Accepted by Patricia Johnson

Screengrab of Patricia Johnson

I want to thank everybody in the program for their enthusiasm for this profession. I've noticed that financial planners love their jobs and they love to help. I am honored to be joining this profession.

I started a financial education program 10 years ago that has been incredibly meaningful to me. And I've long felt that the biggest barrier to getting financial education in schools is teachers’ own financial education. If we created a financial planning program for teachers—priced for teachers—we could impact not just them, but all of their students.

View Patricia's LinkedIn page.

2020 Paul Emery Scholarship Winner: Adrian Morris

Presented by Craig Kirkpatrick: As a child, Adrian navigated the foster-care system in the Bay Area. She's the first in her family to attend college, deciding on UCLA. She's also the first in her family to be interested in becoming a financial planner. Her commitment to learning and giving back to the community through financial planning is impressive.

Accepted by Adrian Morris

Screenshot of Adrienne Morris

I'm so excited for this journey that I'm on, and grateful to everyone who continues to encourage and uplift me as I continue my education. Thank you, and I look forward to seeing more professors in my classes and learning so much more.

2020 Golden Bear Award Winner: Heather Liston

Presented by Brian Kozel: Heather came to our program as an instructor, and in 2018 became the program director. The major changes of converting all classes to virtual learning this year, as well as her organization, accountability and enthusiasm make our jobs easier with her excellent leadership. I take great confidence in knowing that Heather is a CFP® professional and knows the challenges of sitting across from a client, engaging in financial decision-making and navigating the complexities of the tax code.

Accepted by Heather Liston

Screengrab of Heather Liston

My involvement in the program has been life-changing from the day I started my first course as a student back in early 2008. It is a privilege to work with every one of you to ensure we continue to transform the lives of others every day.

I'm thrilled to accept this honor and to join the distinguished list of those who've won it previously. And I take it as a challenge to continue making the mission of personal financial planning, and the good it can do for so many, a central part of what I do every day. Thank you very much for this considerable honor.

View Heather's LinkedIn page.

2020 Honored Instructors

Many thanks to each of these instructors for their adaptability, resilience, professionalism and ongoing generosity.

Watch the full Awards Ceremony: