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Jessica Barlow transforms higher education and supports communities as EPIC-N Board member and SDSU director


Jessica Barlow

Executive Director,
Center for Regional Sustainability
Co-Founder and Director,
The Sage Project
San Diego State University
Vice President,
Jessica’s LinkedIn


Favorite Place

My favorite thing about San Diego is its proximity to the US-Mexico border and how our local cultures and economies are very much dependent on the blurring of that political boundary.

What was your first interaction with a school-community partnership project? 

Our first Sage Project partnership with National City was a turning point in my life. Before, I wasn’t the type to participate in community efforts and volunteerism. But then I was presented with this opportunity to focus on infusing sustainability and community engagement into the curriculum, and I thought, “Well this is cool, I’m going to try to help make this happen.” Now I see how much the experience has transformed me, both professionally and personally. When I started collaborating with the National City community, I thought I was just going to be really busy (which I am!) doing good work. But because of the experience, I am now much more engaged with volunteerism, community service, and even simply paying more attention to local decision making, local efforts, local needs, the ways communities come together (or not) in crises, how streets are designed, and so on. Transforming higher education in this way impacts everyone. It impacted me in ways I never thought possible.

How did you first learn about EPIC-N?

I was one of the founding board members! I learned about the University of Oregon’s EPIC program, the Sustainable City Year Program in 2013, when Marc Schlossberg came to present on the model at SDSU. We launched the Sage Project later that year, and then worked together with representatives from other programs to launch EPIC-N.

What are some of the top priorities you are working on this year?

Our primary focus is on inventorying and mapping historical dry-cleaning sites in San Diego County, in collaboration with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. You can learn more about the partnership here.

In what ways are you looking to engage, or work with others, either from within the EPIC-Network, or in general?

I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the board and our numerous stakeholders to continue to support our existing programs and help spread the model internationally.

What is your favorite part of the EPIC-Network?

That we want to transform higher education and help communities, and do those things at the same time!

What led you to participate within the EPIC-Network in your current capacity?

There’s plenty of inspiration to be had when you work with so many people who want to make the world a better place.


Dr. Jessica Barlow is a professor at San Diego State University (SDSU), and she is the executive director of the SDSU Center for Regional Sustainability. Barlow founded and directs the Sage Project, which partners with local governmental and community organizations in the greater San Diego-Tijuana region via replication of the EPIC Model. Barlow is a founding board member and currently serves as the Vice President of the EPIC Network. In this capacity, she oversees efforts to grow the network internationally through collaboration with national and international agencies.