Latino USA Founder Maria Hinojosa Named Rutgers-Newark Commencement Speaker
Hinojosa will address the May 16 ceremony at the Prudential Center
Renowned journalist Maria Hinojosa, who for decades has illuminated the immigrant experience in America, was named commencement speaker for Rutgers University-Newark’s first in-person graduation ceremony since 2019, Chancellor Nancy Cantor announced.
The commencement ceremony will be held May 16 at 9 a.m. at the Prudential Center in Newark. The Rutgers Board of Governors voted Tuesday to award an honorary doctor of letters degree to Hinojosa when she addresses graduates.
Through her work on national television and radio platforms, Hinojosa has emphasized America’s changing international cultural and political landscapes. She continues to expand her impact as founder, anchor, and executive producer of Latino USA, the premier public radio news outlet addressing issues related to the Latinx community.
“Maria Hinojosa embodies the talent, wisdom, generosity of spirit, commitment to community and courage that we see in the Rutgers-Newark student body,’’ said Cantor. “We believe that her professional accomplishments and personal example make her the perfect candidate to be awarded an honorary degree from us and to be our commencement speaker.”
This year, Hinojosa and her team, Futuro Media and PRX, won a Pulitzer Prize for her podcast series "Suave,'' which tells the story of her friendship with David Luis "Suave" Gonzalez, who received a life sentence as a teen for first-degree homicide.
In addition to her journalistic work for PBS, CNN and NPR, among others, Hinojosa, who was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. as an infant with her parents, has written insightfully about the immigrant experience from a personal perspective.
In her critically acclaimed memoir, Once I Was You, she recounts growing up Mexican American in Chicago, offering powerful accounts of how America’s rhetoric on immigration has long fueled prejudice against outsiders, providing cover for willful negligence and profiteering to create the broken system we have today.
The author of three books, she has observed that she heard little about the realities of the immigrant experience although she grew up in a media-savvy American household. Countering such harmful rhetoric and narrative absence has motivated her career and earned her the Ruben Salazar Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
As the winner of some of journalism’s highest awards – including four Emmys, a Peabody, the John Chancellor and Edward R. Murrow Awards and Nieman Foundation I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence – she is a leader in multimedia journalism.
At the May commencement ceremony, Rutgers-Newark will also award an honorary degree to Wayne Meyer, one of New Jersey’s most effective community development leaders, who served as CEO of New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC) for a dozen years until his retirement last summer.
He is well known among leaders across sectors for his clear vision and advocacy for sound and sustainable investment in New Jersey’s communities, especially those that have seen chronic underinvestment for decades. He has been nationally recognized for his response to immediate crises such as disaster recovery, as well as long-term crises, such as persistent affordable housing shortages.
Meyer, a certified public accountant and attorney, led NJCC during a time of tremendous growth, enabling the organization to create a comprehensive approach to revitalizing whole neighborhoods and shaping a new model of community development. As a result, NJCC brought hundreds of millions of dollars to support underserved communities across the state, including Newark, resulting in the creation of thousands of affordable housing units, millions of square feet of commercial development, and thousands of jobs.
In 2013, he was honored by President Barack Obama as a White House “Hurricane Sandy Champion of Change” for programs he initiated in response to the storm. More recently, he led NJCC’s efforts to partner with banks, impact investing firms, and philanthropic organizations to create a $15 million working capital loan fund, the Garden State Relief Fund, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide millions in pandemic relief funding to underserved communities.