The UCSD Cross-Border Initiative was established in 2012 to promote interdisciplinary poverty research and practice in the San Diego-Tijuana border region. The border cities of San Diego and Tijuana comprise the largest bi-national metropolitan region in the world, severed by the most trafficked international border in the world. While these border cities have roughly equal populations, San Diego has sprawled approximately six times larger than Tijuana in the last decades. This uneven urbanization - dramatized by the radical proximity between wealth and poverty across the border where wealthy exurbs and informal settlements sit minutes apart from one another - is emblematic of the urgent challenges faced by many regions across the US and the world.

We are committed to confronting narratives that characterize border neighborhoods as merely sites of crime and victimization, and that overlook the resilience, creativity, and agency of people living in conditions of scarcity. Despite the social and economic disparities in our region, underserved neighborhoods on both sides of the border have devised alternative strategies of urban sustainability, resilience and adaptation that are typically off the radar of top down institutions of governance and knowledge. There are great lessons to be learned from these local, bottom-up social and economic practices. We are committed to translating and facilitating this bottom up creativity and knowledge through experimental forms of civic participation, education and research.

We are also convinced that the border-wall exacerbates perceptions of division and mistrust, and that both San Diego and Tijuana benefit when we think of ourselves as occupying a binational region. We are committed to understanding trans-border flows – environmental, economic, social, normative – and cultivating a cross-border public culture, oriented around shared interests, mutual expectations and responsibilities between divided communities. The Cross Border Initiative is housed in the UCSD Center on Global Justice - an Organized Research Unit at the University of California, San Diego devoted to community-engaged interdisciplinary research on poverty.


  • To reactivate the university’s public mission, bringing awareness that community engagement is not only service but can be embedded in new forms of research and teaching.
  • To inspire students and faculty across disciplines to do ethical, community-engaged research and practice in diverse, underserved contexts.
  • To co-produce knowledge in collaboration with communities, enabling alternative forms of “public scholarship.”
  • To bring the knowledge of communities into university research, and reciprocally, to bring the knowledge of the university into communities to increase agency and capacity.
  • To improve quality of life in the communities we partner with by creating new ‘public spaces that educate.'
  • To mobilize the arts & humanities as tools of civic engagement that increase public knowledge and capacity in disadvantaged communities.
  • To expand the public knowledge of our processes and projects through academic publication, public exhibition and public events.


    The UCSD Community Stations is a network of field-based research hubs located in underserved communities throughout the San Diego-Tijuana region, where research, teaching and service are conducted collaboratively with community partners. There are currently three UCSD Community Stations operating throughout the region, each led by an interdisciplinary team of university faculty, and each focused on a particular cluster of urban and environmental issues. Read more about the Community Stations here.


    The Blum Summer Field Internship is a paid annual summer internship program, launched in 2014, that places teams of undergraduate students from diverse disciplinary programs in an immersive summer field research experience. Summer activities take place in the three UCSD Community Station sites. Read more about the Blum Summer Field Internship here.