Erica Cusi Wortham

Erica Wortham

Erica Cusi Wortham

Director, GW Innovation Center


Tompkins Hall M06

Erica Cusi Wortham is a cultural anthropologist with an interdisciplinary practice at GW Engineering that spans engineering, social science, art and design.  As Director of the GW Innovation Center | M06, she makes space for studio-based, tactile learning and community-driven innovation that centers creative problem-solving, equity and sustainability. 

Dr. Wortham and her students prioritize sustainability.  At M06’s Waste Lab they explore materiality and ways to channel resources from the local waste stream into creative projects, research and learning opportunities.  Waste Lab is pleased to have partnered with The Kennedy Center’s RiverRun Festival and GW’s Sustainability Institute to bring awareness to the problem of plastic pollution in our local rivers and streams.  GW Innovation Center supports creative projects across campus, whether they are embedded within courses, part of entrepreneurs’ prototyping journey or student side projects.

Dr. Wortham joined GW’s Department of Anthropology in 2012 as a Lecturer and has teaching appointments across several schools and departments. In 2017 she joined an interdisciplinary teaching team piloting design thinking, social impact courses at the School of Engineering and Applied Science and became a member of the staff as co-director of the Innovation Center a year later.  She teaches human-centered design in engineering courses and is actively developing cross-disciplinary opportunities with the school.  Erica is currently co-PI on a three-year, NSF-funded research project that explores the relationship between social innovation learning opportunities and student engagement in engineering education.

Prior to joining GW Engineering, her ethnographic research with Indigenous media artists and activists in Mexico investigated the intersections of culture, technology and politics to examine how artists reframe narratives that have been historically marginalizing (Indigenous Media in Mexico: Culture, Community and the State, Duke University Press, 2013).  She has worked with New York University Libraries to develop a digital Indigenous media collection and as a film programmer at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.  Erica continues to support community-based Indigenous media archiving in Latin America.

Erica’s undergraduate degree is from Columbia University and her graduate degrees, including a certificate in ethnographic filmmaking, are from New York University.