The UniSmart Story

The power of like minds wanting to make a positive impact

Founding directors Trudi Urlwin (NZ) and John Davey (UK) conceived the idea of designing a presentation dedicated to providing students with vital information in a memorable format. At the time John was working as a corporate entertainer and Trudi was directing her event management business. John was tailoring specialised, entertaining and motivational packages for businesses and conference delegates throughout New Zealand and Trudi was delivering innovative and creative events.

The highly motivated pair started meeting regularly to discuss ideas for developing events that delivered more than entertainment. They wanted to make a difference. They were looking for ways that they could positively influence and improve outcomes for first year students, who they knew often found the reality of student life far different to what they had anticipated.

UniSmart delivers a dose of reality

For many students, university is the first time they have left the familiar society of friends and family, let alone lived away from home. While this can be a hugely rewarding experience, the culture shock of living in new surroundings and having to form new relationships, combined with the pressure of undertaking independent study, can make it feel like the bottom has fallen out of their world.

UniSmart™ was the platform they conceived to support and empower first-year university students. The live, totally student-focussed presentation talks candidly about the sometimes harsh and unexpected reality of life at university and points out the many shared experiences within this new community.

From small beginnings ‘down under’ to a global success

Drawing on their own expertise and talents – theatre, performance, scriptwriting, multi-media, marketing and event production – they developed the high energy, high impact presentation that combines music, video, animation, performance and comedy.

Since UniSmart launched at Victoria University Wellington in 1999, the presentation has traveled throughout Australasia, the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, and the USA.

To date, over 750,000 students worldwide have seen UniSmart, and the audience numbers continue to grow.
UniSmart is delivered by an internationally experienced performer drawn from a pool of specially trained talent. Each Presenter has been selected for their professionalism, performance background and ability to empathise with the young people they present to.

As a result, they deliver the unique, fast paced, attention grabbing UniSmart performance in arresting style.

UniSmart is a force for good

John and Trudi continue to live, breathe and dream UniSmart, traveling several months of the year from their headquarters in Christchurch, New Zealand to oversee presentations and meet university staff and students all around the world.

Ensuring the presentation is relevant involves regularly reviewing and reinventing the script and performance. Feedback from student focus groups and audience surveys ensures a fresh, topical and informative event.

The global success of the presentation is based on the premise that despite geographical differences, first year students the world over are facing similar challenges.

For John and Trudi, UniSmart is fulfilling their desire to make the world a better place, one performance at a time.

The UniSmart Mission

Our mission is to be the best in the world at communicating positive, useful information to new students in a way that inspires and empowers them.

UniSmart builds self esteem, and the confidence to self manage, along with empathy and motivation in young people. This enhances coping abilities, a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose in times of challenge and change.

Our People

Trudi Urlwin

Some people are born to lead, and Trudi was front of the line from the moment she could walk. At the age 10 she started a pop group fan club. As President, she ran it like any good dictator. Members sat weekly tests and club prospects had to apply in writing to be admitted. That dare to be different attitude, attention to detail, love of the written word and amazing ability to surround herself with like-minded fans, friends and colleagues has never abated.
UniSmart combines her exceptional directing, writing and staging skills.

John Davey

This Welsh-born prankster, entrepreneur and globe trotter was destined for great things from a young age. John was the kid who put the stink-pellets in Aunty's cigarettes! A need for attention and a huge sense of humour eventually led to a small studio in Covent Garden, London where he learned to juggle. That talent took him a long way for worthy causes; walking long distances, juggling and fundraising all in one. John still holds the world record for his 1984 200 mile juggle-a-thon.
In 1985 John boarded a yacht from Fiji to New Zealand and found his happy place.

Max Farra
Events and Marketing Manager

Max has been with the UniSmart team since 2013 where he started on a part-time work experience basis as an office assistant. Fast forward after several years, a Bachelors Degree, and a relocation to London, Max now manages the UniSmart tours in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and has responsibilities for UniSmart’s marketing presence and content design. Fresh out of university as 2018 graduate, Max brings invaluable student insight to his role.

Max can be reached in the UK by:
Mobile: +44 (0)771 629 3339

Annie Graham

Annie has had almost a lifetime of creating special costumes and designer outfits; from the age of four she was crafting bespoke dresses for her dolls and they had a well-earned status as the best-dressed dolls in South Otago, New Zealand. Her reputation as a designer and costumier has seen her working as a stylist, designer and wardrobe mistress across theatre, television, film as well as undertaking many one-off design and build commissions.

Like all good social enterprises, UniSmart is all about making a positive difference.

UniSmart is a force for good in the world. We acknowledge, value and respect people from all walks of life and circumstances.