Community Leader, Volunteer Educator and CTFA Chris Morales `87


In the corporate world, Chris Morales `87 works an account manager and certified trust and financial advisor (CTFA) for the Northern Trust Corporation.

In the Santa Barbara community, Morales is known as a beloved mentor and dedicated local leader for entrepreneurship education and youth outreach.

At Santa Barbara High School’s award-winning enterprise program Dons Net Café, Morales teaches economics and the principles of business and finance to budding entrepreneurs. He serves as an advisory board member at the Santa Barbara City College Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and is a board member of C.A.R.E., 4 Paws. He also volunteers at the United Way of Santa Barbara County and is Vice President at the Western Collegiate Model United Nations.

Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Morales graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in political science. He went on to earn a certificate in professional financial planning from the UCSB Extension Program and a journalism certificate from UCLA Extension. Since 2013, Morales has served as a committee member on the All Gaucho Reunion Locals Committee.

5  Questions

What drew you to study at UCSB?

I come from a unique position in that UCSB was always a part of my life growing up here in Santa Barbara. I remember taking bike rides to UCSB with my brothers when I was a small kid. It was so expansive and beautiful. It was exciting to be there. I always felt that UCSB was a place with great dynamics and with a lot of important things happening there. So that relationship started very young for me. To this day, I cherish my connection to the University. I had never seriously considered any other place to go to school.

What is a typical day for you at your position at Northern Trust?

There isn’t a typical day for me at my job -- that’s one of the things that I like about my work, is the unpredictable factor to it. You can plan but it is the “unplanning of things” that show up on your desk, that call for all your resources and skills. I particularly enjoy that challenge. The nature of our work is hard to describe. It’s like being air traffic controller, an ambassador, and a counselor. A lot of our work is knowing when to talk, and knowing when to listen, despite all the training and technology we have in our lives. In the end, it’s really all about people-to-people interactions.

I was listening to CBS news on artificial intelligence and all these tremendous developments in technology and finance systems. But I think there is no substitute for knowing people and knowing how to listen to people. We get to know clients to find out where they are strong and where we can help. We are here to hold their hands through the tough spots.

What advice would you share with students who would like to work in your field?

There are more avenues to get your technology education than in the 1990s. That’s a tremendous development of opportunity for young people. This is the trial for any field, reconciling the idea of what you want to do in your chosen field and the reality of the day-to-day. I found valuable resources as a UCSB alumnus. I availed myself of the Alumni Association professional development and networking programs. The upshot was as an alumni member I was able to contact Gauchos in and out of the area to ask them about their field. They spent time to talk to me about what they did. These are called informational interviews. They may be “old school” but they are invaluable. It helped to expand my network and my knowledge.

You are a phenomenal community leader here in Santa Barbara – can you tell us what inspires you to be so involved in youth outreach education like the Dons Net Café?

Public service is part of what I’m here to do in my community, especially working with young people. There’s an enormously rewarding aspect of helping young people who may not have had the exposure or the resources you have. They are becoming aware of other worlds that they have never imagined. If you can point them in the right direction with mentoring, you can plant a seed that you may not see grow but you know you are helping it flourish, even at the early stages. Every so often, I can see that growth in this community. I run into old students or they’ll l look me up or want to touch base…and it’s enormously rewarding to talk to them and learn how they are doing.

I had a bad car accident in the early 2000s. I wasn’t sure what the future held for me. But I was able to return to school at SBCC to challenge myself. They helped light my way. Eventually, I took over the economics aspect at the Dons Net Café. (I had already met their dynamic instructor Lee Knodel, known to everyone as “Ms. B.”) There’s an addictive quality to be part of that type of growth.

What do you do on your days off?

I should take a class in how to unplug! When I do take a day off, the first thing I think of are the chores to do. It’s taking a little bit more awareness now for me to realize that I have to also take care of myself. It’s quickly getting easier to do that, to replenish and refresh. Sometimes it takes stopping everything and taking a nap…and not feeling guilty about it.

One activity that recharges me is horseback riding. I love riding horses. I ride in Gaviota, at a horse ranch. I learn so much from animals. Likes any educational process, what you think is going to happen sometimes doesn’t and that’s where new learning happens. With horses, you need to let go of a lot of assumptions.

I have been riding for nearly five years. I do Western riding. I have come to an understanding with the horse I ride regularly. He’s the biggest horse on the ranch. Sometimes, he may pretend he doesn’t see me. Other times, he cooperates. I really enjoy this relationship.

Reason's We're Proud to be Gauchos

My pride in being a Gaucho is an ongoing process. I have lived in Santa Barbara since I was a small boy. I really appreciate UCSB as a resource, especially learning about its history from the 1940s onward. It’s grown enormously and has developed so much as an institution. So much of that growth is due to Chancellor Yang’s leadership. It’s truly a world-class institution. I look at the quality of the students and the progression of its impact on the world.

It makes me proud that UCSB doesn’t stay content to rest on its laurels. UCSB strives to excel and grow. It truly is a treasure of our community.


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