Previously, Jess was the Director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design. In that capacity she worked with over 125 American mayors and cities to help local leaders better understand issues of urban design so that they could advocate for better built environments in their own communities. During her time at the Mayors’ Institute, she also served as Vice President for Programs at the American Architectural Foundation, overseeing that organization’s Great Schools by Design program and developing the Sustainable Cities Design Academy. Prior to that, Jess served as the Community Design Director at Urban Ecology, providing pro bono community planning and design assistance to low-income neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her primary project was the design and development of a community cultural center in the San Antonio district of East Oakland.
Jess is a member of the urban planning faculty at Georgetown University, teaching courses in urban revitalization, ethics, and urban design. She earned a Master of Architecture and Master of City Planning from UC Berkeley and a B.A. in Architecture from Columbia University.
Jess was an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow, an Urban and Regional Policy Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, and a Fellow of the Women’s Policy Institute of the Women’s Foundation of California. She served from 2012 to 2017 as Chair of the Board of Directors of Next City, and also serves on the boards of Colloqate and the National Main Street Center. She held a mayoral appointment to the Washington, DC Green Building Advisory Council for seven years. She is a licensed architect and a LEED-Accredited professional.