Speakers 2017

Here are our very talented speakers for 2017! Feel free to scroll down below to learn a little bit about them.



Rez Gardi

Rez was born in a United Nations refugee camp in Pakistan as her Kurdish family escaped persecution in their home land of Kurdistan. After years of struggle, Rez and her family were fortunately given the opportunity to resettle in New Zealand to and create a new life for themselves. 

Rez has sought to use her difficult start in life as motivation to succeed recently becoming New Zealand’s first Kurdish female lawyer. She was awarded the Young New Zealander of the Year for 2017 for her services to human rights and a Women of Influence Finalist.

She is passionate about supporting young refugees and believes education is pivotal to changing the future for refugees. This led to her founding ‘Empower’ – a charitable organisation aiming to address the under-representation of refugee students in tertiary education through a mentoring and support programme. 

Trent Hohaia

Trent is passionate in the pursuit of the repatriation of traditional Māori learning methods into the homes of Māori whanau.

Held deeply in this passion is a belief is that the old ways of learning of his people are relevant, powerful and have helped esoteric knowledge bases survive the many oppressions faced. He is a proud descendent of Ngāti Maniapoto, of the Tainui Waka.

Tihei Mauriora!

Jupiter Project

Under 30 entrepreneurs, best known as New Zealand’s Top Electronic DJ Act, have been behind some of the biggest records, campaigns and PR stunts of the past few years. Renowned for their chart-topping singles and always having a finger on the pulse of youth culture.

Few know the inspiring story behind the pair’s award-winning plaques – Gavin and Martin both graduated in Law/Commerce (Auckland Uni Alumni & Law Students Society President) and Doctor of Chiropractic respectively. Taking the road less travelled, the boys unconventionally used the skills they gained in university to navigate a completely new territory in music and social media, developing their passion into a successful enterprise reaching millions today. As New Zealanders with origins in India and Tanzania, the boys are a true testament to “following the beat of your own drum” and live an inspiring story worth sharing with the youth.

Sharndre Kushor

Sharndre’s life passion is helping our generation to discover their capabilities, confidence and leadership potential. As Co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Crimson Education, Sharndre has helped turn a small start-up into a hundred-million-dollar global education company, spanning 20,000 students. In the 2015/16 admissions round, 90% of New Zealand students who gained admission to Ivy League Universities were Crimson students.

In 2016 Sharndre graduated from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Health Sciences specialising in Population Health. The same year she oversaw Crimson expand its offices from Auckland and Sydney to Melbourne, London, Bangkok, and Singapore. The Crimson network now includes over 2,000 tutors and mentors, and over 20,000 students.

This year Sharndre was featured on the 2017 Forbes Asia – 30 Under 30 list.

Jarrod Isopo

My name is Jarrod Isopo, I am a proud New Zealander with Samoan heritage. This is my 5th year in tertiary education where my current field of study is in Medicine and Health Science. My life isn’t as straightforward as the previous sentence. I have changed my area of study at least 4 times, been to 3 different tertiary institutions, worked as a personal assistant to a Republican, pretended to be a qualified accountant, and have once lied about my age to get a job at my local fish and chips shop. My life can be perceived as different, but regardless I would not have wanted it any other way. I look forward to sharing with you my view on Whakapapa, and the historical impacts it has had on generation Y from a Polynesian perspective.

Aliesha Staples

Staples VR is an Augmented and Virtual Reality content creation studio, training and rental company with its head office in Auckland New Zealand.  We specialise in live action capture and VR tool creation, our clients include Warner Brothers, Paramount Studios and Disney. We are the Nokia OZo and Jaunt VR partners for Asia Pacific and were the first company to have a 4k live streaming VR system this side of the world.

Basil Sharp

Basil Sharp is Professor of Energy and Resource Economics at the University of Auckland. Born in Auckland, raised in Gisborne and transformed in the United States. Basil has spent his academic career applying economics to the numerous resource and environmental challenges of New Zealand Aotearoa.

Greg Cross

Greg is one of the original tech nomad’s, who has spent his career travelling to and living in every major tech market in the world.

In 2016 Greg teamed up with Dr Mark Sagar to create Soul Machines, a company focused on humanizing the next generation of computer technologies. By combining a human face with brain models they’re bringing computers to life in a very human-like way.
He is also the Sir John Logan Campbell Executive in Residence at the University of Auckland Business School.