Commencement Speaker

Nellie Pou
New Jersey State Senator, 35th Legislative District
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters


New Jersey State Senator Nellie Pou was first elected to the New Jersey Legislature in 1997, where she served in the Assembly for the 14 years before her rise to the Senate in 2011. She is the first woman and the first Latina elected to represent the 35th Legislative District.

In January 2022, Senator 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, Senator 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. Senator Pou has worked with colleagues to provide businesses with more opportunities to grow and thrive, improve economic independence, provide quality and affordable education and healthcare 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.

Senator 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, and was named to Insider NJ’s 100 Policymakers 2020.

She has served as president-elect of the National Hispanic Council of State Legislators (2019-2021), a member of the New Jersey Complete Count Commission for the U.S. Census, and as an executive board member of the National Association of Democratic Latino Officials.

Senator Pou serves on the New Jersey Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission, the New Jersey Puerto Rico Commission, the New Jersey Disparity in State Procurement Study Commission, the New Jersey Task Force for Continued Transformation of Youth Justice, and the New Jersey Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity. She is a member of the National Council of State Legislators, Women in Government, the National Order of Women Legislators/National Foundation of Women Legislators, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the Women’s Political Caucus, Emerge New Jersey, and the Council of State Government.

Senator Pou worked for the City of Paterson for more than three decades, including roles as director of human services and business administrator, in addition to serving on many leadership positions throughout her years of service to the community.