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DCE Magazine

Instructor Q&A: Avi Pai

Personal Financial Planning Instructor

Fall 2018

Q. Why did you decide to become an instructor?

A. In my late teens, I was introduced to The Bridge Builder poem by Will Allen Dromgoole. It's a simple poem about a man being questioned for building a bridge for a path he's already crossed. He replies that he builds the bridge for the next person that will need to cross the same path. That idea of helping others (on the same journey) has always stuck with me. While in college, I taught SAT preparation to high school students through The Princeton Review.

When I passed the CFP® exam, I was so thankful to UCI for the amazing Personal Financial Planning program it offers. A year or two later, I had reached out to UCI simply offering to be of assistance if the program or any instructors needed any help. They mentioned there was a teaching position open and suggested I interview and present. I think I won over the interviewers by reusing some of my tactics from teaching SAT prep to high school students.

Q. What's unique about your teaching style?

A. I actually start out every quarter by telling students that my goal is to make my class the best class they've taken in the program. I want the class to be educational, fun, and impactful. It's challenging to teach to both career changers and professionals with 30+ years in the industry. I like to blend the academic and practical aspects of financial planning because of the variety of experience in the classroom.

In order to engage everyone, I can't just hammer topics (especially when they've already learned them in other courses), and I can't be boring. I try to involve art and music, use the Socratic method, and have topical guest speakers to help fellow professionals think differently.

A major part of my course is an individual presentation of a limitedscope financial plan. Students choose to do a traditional presentation to the entire class OR they can role play a client meeting with fellow students (where they make the recommendations and have to explain things to clients). Every student is given a grade by me, but also receives at least 3 anonymous reviews by their peers. The peer review ratings don't affect their grade, but help them understand how people at different parts of the experience spectrum viewed their presentation and how they can improve their techniques/communication skills. I think it's helpful for someone who has experience to get feedback from both more experienced peers as well as total rookies. Conversely, the rookie benefits from fellow rookies and seasoned professionals.

Q. What do you find most rewarding about being an instructor?

A. Without a doubt, it's truly an honor to be a part of a fellow professional's journey to become a better advice dispenser. Professionals that become CFP® certificants have a list of goals including to be the best resource possible to their clients, improve the profession, and increase their professional value and income potential. Although I'm not anyone important, it's an awesome feeling to be involved in that!

Even after the course is done, I treasure when students reach out to me to give me updates: career changes, promotions, passing the CFP Board exam, etc!

Q. How else have you decided to become engaged in UCI's larger community? How else have you decided to become engaged in UCI's larger community?

A. In 2018, I was introduced to UCI's Chancellor's Club through the Dean of Continuing Education, Gary Matkin. I'm so glad I joined because it's served as a front row seat to seeing some of the most amazing things UCI is working on. I've had the pleasure of attending a private keynote from the brilliant new School of Law Dean, L. Song Richardson; I have met with people from UCI Mind, Claire Trevor School of Arts, etc.

I am blown away to see how UCI is determined to be a leader in every way it wants to be! In fact, seeing that motivates me to bring my best game even as a small-time instructor!