HOUSTON — (Feb. 16, 2022) — Sonia Nazario, an award-winning journalist whose work has tackled some of the United States’ most intractable problems — hunger, drug addiction and immigration — will deliver the 2022 commencement address at Rice University.
Nazario has won some of the most prestigious journalism and book awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes. She was also a finalist for a third Pulitzer, in Public Service.
She is best known for “Enrique’s Journey,” her story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S. Published as a series in the Los Angeles Times, “Enrique’s Journey” won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2003. It was turned into a book by Random House and became a national bestseller.
Her recent humanitarian efforts to get lawyers for unaccompanied migrant children led to her selection as the 2015 Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award recipient by the Advocates for Human Rights. She also was named a 2015 Champion of Children by First Focus and a 2015 Golden Door award winner by HIAS Pennsylvania. In 2016, the American Immigration Council gave her the American Heritage Award. Also in 2016, the Houston Peace and Justice Center honored her with its National Peacemaker Award.
“Our student committee reflected a deep concern with the most important issues of our time in nominating Sonia Nazario as our commencement speaker this spring,” Rice President David Leebron said. “Her work, which has been widely praised, has sought to explore the fundamental challenges affecting human well-being in this country and beyond. Ms. Nazario calls upon us to have compassion for the plight of people facing the most difficult of circumstances, especially families and children, while working to achieve just and practical policy solutions. I very much look forward to hearing her message to our students as they enter their next life phase and seek to make a difference in our world.”
Nazario, who grew up in Kansas and in Argentina, has written extensively from Latin America and about Latinos in the United States. She has been named among the most influential Latinos by Hispanic Business Magazine and a “trendsetter” by Hispanic Magazine. In 2012, Columbia Journalism Review named Nazario among “40 women who changed the media business in the past 40.” In 2018, she was given the Spirit of HOPE (Hispanas Organized for Political Equality) Award. In 2020, Parade magazine named her one of its “50+ Most Influential Latin-American Women in History.”
She is a graduate of Williams College and has a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She has honorary doctorates from Mount St. Mary’s College and Whittier College. She began her career at the Wall Street Journal before joining the Los Angeles Times.
In 2014, Nazario gave a President’s Lecture at Rice on how the U.S. should approach the then-rapidly growing numbers of migrants and refugees at the southern border.
She is now at work on her second book and is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times.
Rice University’s 109th commencement ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, May 7, 2022.