Pou to give commencement address for William Paterson on May 22

State Sen. Nellie Pou, the first woman and Latina to represent Legislative District 35, will give the keynote address at William Paterson University’s 2024 undergraduate commencement ceremony May 22 at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Pou (D-Paterson) will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

“As the first woman and the first Latina to represent her Legislative District, Sen. Pou is a true pioneer in the William Paterson spirit, and I know our graduates and guests will appreciate hearing from her on this very special day,” WPU President Richard Helldobler said.

“Sen. Pou is a strong advocate for New Jersey’s students and for public higher education in the state who has sponsored multiple legislations to increase affordability and access for New Jersey residents. She is a true friend and advocate for William Paterson, and we are honored that she will join us to share her perspectives with everyone at the Prudential Center.”

Nearly 2,900 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree candidates are expected to be recognized at the university’s commencement events. In addition to the undergraduate ceremony, ceremonies will be held for master’s and doctoral degree candidates at noon and 6 p.m. May 20 in the Sports and Recreation Center on William Paterson’s Wayne campus.

Pou was first elected to the New Jersey Legislature in 1997, where she served in the Assembly for 14 years before her rise to the Senate in 2011.

In January 2022, Pou became part of Senate leadership as chair of the Senate Majority Caucus. She currently serves as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chair of the New Jersey Legislative Latino Caucus.

She served as president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators for a two-year term from 2021 to 2023. She is the first legislator from New Jersey to preside over the more than 400-member organization, which was founded in 1989 as a nonpartisan nonprofit and spans 42 states as well as Puerto Rico. In this role, Pou worked closely with legislative colleagues from across the country while championing resolutions that reflect many of her landmark prime-sponsored state laws that serve as a model for other legislatures.

During her more than 25 years serving in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate, she has navigated into law many policies ranging from social justice to criminal justice reform, as well as human and civil rights. Pou has worked with colleagues to provide businesses with more opportunities to grow and thrive, improve economic independence, provide quality and affordable education and health care for all ages, expand voter participation, restore funding for vital programs and ensure more diversity on the New Jersey Supreme Court, as well as advocating for many other important initiatives.

Pou has served as a panelist, keynote speaker, and/or moderator for an array of national and statewide organizations, as well as having been featured on multiple media outlets for many prime-sponsored laws that have led New Jersey to serve as a national leader. She was named to Insider NJ’s 100 Policymakers 2020.