It all started when...
The inspiration for Peaks & Professors struck USC undergraduate student Allegra Bishop (Class of ‘16) during a conversation with a philosophical-astrophysicist-turned-dentist professor (DMD, MPH, MA, MSD, PhD kind of a guy) in Gates of the Arctic National Park in Northern Alaska. Half way through their 8 day trek, their conversations pivoted from the philosophy of AI to the importance of exposure, from different cultures to the most interesting woman he’s ever met, and from the stories from his educational experience to the way he views the world from an academic perspective. Her dad, a talented orthopedic surgeon, joined in with a third perspective, as additional minds added hours of conversation to the hike. As they bushwhacked their way through miles of Alaskan tundra, the days passed quickly as their conversation flowed just as surely as water from their camelbaks. As Allegra took in these new perspectives from a man who had done it all, she found herself wanting to share more discussions like this in the place where her mind was the clearest - the great outdoors. She began to envision a way to pursue similarly intellectual and meaningful connections with other experts, gain insight in areas beyond her major, and seek mentors.
Allegra found herself looking to connect with her professors while simultaneously asking them to Think Outside - Peaks & Professors was the perfect combination. She collaborated with Adrienne Visani and Jack Koppa, friends from her freshman year dorm, to make this dream a reality. They found themselves in uncharted waters that held unique problems for an organization whose concept and structure had never existed before, but with consistent Google hangouts and creative solutions, the original crew launched Peaks & Professors on September 13th, 2013.
Focused on providing accessible & exciting ways for students and professors to get to know each other, we lead small group hikes around SoCal - and much further - to reap the benefits of casual conversation and exploration in the outdoors. The accessibility of nature is particularly crucial to the Peaks’ mission, as it was essential to Allegra that we keep trip prices affordable so students of all socioeconomic backgrounds can participate. Since our first four trips that fall, we’ve experienced immense growth in both the size and quality of our outdoor experiences.
With the help of our advisors, Rebecca Broyer and Brett Sheehan, Peaks delved into the community of incredible faculty at USC by inviting professors across all disciplines to Think Outside. Peaks has since led hikes with Dornsife Vice-Dean Steven Lamy, Vice-President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry and countless other renowned USC professors, pushing the intellectual exploration to new heights and creating more opportunities for USC students to connect with faculty in California’s beautiful nature.
We’ve also seen remarkable progress within our organization since we began with our first 5 trip leads. There have been recruitment cycles where our trip lead family has more than doubled in size, welcoming student leaders from across USC’s disciplines who have brought a diversity in skills and interests that make Peaks’ innovation possible. When our founders graduated, leadership transitioned to Thomas Donovan and Peter Bergmann as Presidents, who followed a patented Duel Leadership Model (they would often duel each other). Since then, we hosted our first elections to vote in an executive P-Board that works to make it possible for our trip leads to continue to lead countless innovative and ambitious trips.
The heights we’ve reached include capturing the prestigious Tommy's Award for USC Student Organization of the Year, beating out over 800 other student organizations in 2016, and the Tommy’s Award for Recreational Organization of the Year in 2017. We’ve introduced initiatives that include Peaks & Patagonia, which won the 2017 Tommy's Award for Sustainable Program of the Year, and Peaks & Professionals, a program where we lead hikes that connect students to professionals who have made the outdoors a pillar of their careers. In the same month that we led our 200th hike, our Peaks & Proliferation initiative was well underway. Our goal to expand to other universities became a reality in November 2017, when Peaks @ Stanford and Peaks @ UCLA led their first hikes under the guidance of their fearless founders, encouraging our Pac-12 rivals to Think Outside.
Peaks started with only a few trips, a few tents, and a few trip leads. It’s thanks to the dedication of our incredible student leaders, participants, and professors that we’ve been able to thrive and grow into a family of over 60 Trip Leads and Trip Lead Alumni at three universities, leading over 40 trips every semester. We’re stoked to keep exploring the intersection of intellectual curiosity and outdoors adventure with our incredible community through view-challenging, idea-inspiring, truly meaningful conversations in the great outdoors like the one Allegra had that fateful day in Alaska.
Tommy's Award for Sustainable Program of the Year - 2016-2017
Tommy's Award for Recreational Org of the Year - 2016-2017
Tommy's Award for USC Student Organization of the Year - 2015-2016
Peaks & Patagonia
Peaks & Professionals
Casey Schreiner - Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Hiker
Peaks & Proliferation