From Tempe to DC: ASU employee adjusts to life in nation’s capital

Bianca Lucero turns hospitality into art form for McCain Institute


Woman in front of Washington Monument
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Arizona transplant Bianca C. Lucero enjoys her job at Arizona State University's new center in Washington, D.C., but has experienced some minor culture shock since she took the position in 2017.

“I now have more coats than I’ve ever owned, I walk to work, and there are no breakfast burritos here, which should be a staple of life,” joked Lucero, the special events manager at the McCain Institute for International Leadership in the nation’s capital. “Three things I miss most about Arizona are my family, Sun Devil football games and the Mexican food.”

Lucero’s longtime presence is greatly appreciated in the nation’s capital, where she has turned hospitality into an art form, according to her boss.

“Presentation is important. Receiving people in a respectful manner is important,” said Ambassador Michael C. Polt, professor of practice and senior director for the McCain Institute. “Setting up events so that they are memorable and stay in peoples’ minds after they have left this building is our goal. Bianca makes all of that happen. She’s an event superstar.”

And like many superstars, she is a trailblazer. Lucero is the eldest of three children, was the first of her siblings to attend college and was an inaugural member of ASU’s César E. Chávez Leadership Institute (CCLI). She was also the first college graduate from the program and later served on its advisory committee, as its chair, in 2015 and 2016.

The proud alumna and die-hard Sun Devil graduated in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. She also holds a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and management. She worked as a community relations coordinator for ASU Public Events in the Office of Cultural Participation for six years. Her efforts enabled her to connect communities to innovative arts programs, world-class artists in residence and provide children and adults throughout the Valley access to cultural initiatives.

Later she was hired as director of events at ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, where she served as a liaison on many campus-planning committees and ensured Barrett played an integral role in key ASU events, such as Fall Welcome, Family Weekend and Homecoming.

For her professional work and community contributions and for being an outstanding role model, she was chosen as a recipient of the Arizona Hispanic 40 Under 40 Award in 2013.

Lucero brings that prestige to the McCain Institute, which is housed in the 32,000-square-foot, eight-story Ambassador Barbara Barrett & Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Washington Center, just two blocks from the White House. In addition to the McCain Institute, the center also houses various ASU programs such as the Cronkite News Washington Bureau, Center on the Future of War, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, the Morrison Institute for Public Policy and the L. William Seidman Research Institute.

Her skills were highlighted in March when the institute held its grand opening reception amid the center’s public grand opening, which included a week of receptions, lectures and panel discussions.

“This spring was jam-packed with the move to the new building, the grand opening events and our regular programming and plenty of 13-hour days. I think I’m just recovering and defrosting,” Lucero said with a laugh.

She didn’t have much time to recover. In late April she helped organize The Sedona Forum, the McCain Institute’s annual, high-level gathering of national and international leaders held each spring at the Enchantment Resort in the red rock country of Sedona, Arizona. The three-day forum is invitation-only and this year included CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, and a discussion between Cindy McCain and actor Ashton KutcherIn 2009, Kutcher co-founded what would go on to become Thorn, a nonprofit dedicated to leveraging technology for good: to stop the sale and abuse of children online., who spoke on their work to end human trafficking.

Even though Lucero remains nostalgic for home and still hasn’t gotten used to the East Coast’s cold weather, she said living in Washington D.C., certainly has its perks.

“I think I’ve finally adapted and embraced living in an urban city,” Lucero said. “D.C. offers plenty to do for both personal and professional development. It is a walkable city that’s easy to navigate. It also has great restaurants and many free cultural events. It offers up a lot of new opportunities that I’m eager to explore … but I’m still on the hunt for a really good Mexican food restaurant.”

Photo courtesy of Bianca Lucero

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