One would be hard pressed in finding a more interesting path towards New Mexico Tech than that of Kelly Luster. Currently the Publication Sales Manager at the Charles & Jessie Headen Bureau of Geology and Minerals Center and Museum on campus, Luster graduated from Tech in 2009, a school she never thought of attending growing up. El Defensor Chieftain popped into her office to find out more.
Question: How did you come to be in this position at Tech?
Answer: I’m an alumni. Graduated in 2009 with a bachelors degree in psychology. I came back in 2015, worked in payroll, took a break and had a baby named Joie with my husband Jake whom attended Tech at the same time as me, but did not meet until years later. Then my friend April, whom I worked for as a student, said there was an opening. I came back to Tech and have been here since last November.
Q: You said that you left and came back to Tech. Where did you go?
A: I went to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Wyoming. I attended one year then funding ran out while I was also working at a group home for the developmentally disabled. Both adults and children where we both housed and lived with patients around the clock depending on different shifts.
Q: Why did you return to Socorro?
A: There was a little seven year-old boy I was treating and very close with who could barely move and required around the clock care passed away. That really broke my heart and I realized I couldn’t do hospice work anymore. So after living in Arizona for a while with a friend I eventually came back to New Mexico. I was in Albuquerque but still had a lot of friends in Socorro so I contacted the Compliance Officer Millie Tourville, my former teacher, when I saw a job opening at the school and now here I am.
Q: Let us take it back. Were you born and raised in New Mexico?
A: No I was born in Washington State in Bremerton as my father was stationed there as a naval officer. We lived in Alamogordo before bouncing around to other states. My father had bought a farm down here which is how I ended up in Socorro. They currently live in San Antonio just down the road.
Q: How did you get into becoming a student at Tech?
A: It was here. After I got divorced from my first marriage I was working at Denny’s, now Yo Momma’s, restaurant and was dating a guy who was going to Tech. One day he was visiting the restaurant and I told him that I was ready to start taking classes at Tech and he said ‘Are you sure because Tech’s hard’. And that is true but I thought ok, we’ll see about that. So I came here at 26 after getting a G.E.D. as I had dropped out of high school in the past and ended up graduating with high honors.
Q: Why were you so determined to attend Tech?
A: Because everyone here in town kept telling me there’s this great school right here. I kept thinking that I can do better. Getting to the point where you stop skipping school or getting in trouble is something that you have to find. But I wanted a challenge. And if that boy wanted to challenge me then I thought why can’t I go here like anybody else. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
Q: If you had to single out a teacher who inspired you the most here at Tech whom would it be?
A: Tiffany Briggs. She is not here now, she was a visiting professor, really helped me early on in my first semester. I was kicked out of biology but needed to fill a science/math requisite and she taught a basic math class at 8 a.m. that nobody wanted to take because it was 8 a.m. in the morning. I came to her and said that I really need this waiver and that I want to be full-time. She said if I dedicate myself to this early morning class she would sign a waiver to get me back in biology. We became friends and helped me with my insecurities being an older non-traditional student.
Q: Why should a student think about attending New Mexico Tech?
A: The personal connection that the professors provide. Plus I also learned that when there is a challenge in class there is always a person or group here to help you on this campus.
Q: A few random questions. What is your favorite movie?
A: There’s this movie called “Elizabethtown” with Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst. It wasn’t big and I can’t remember how I came about it. The way that she showed this guy who thought it was all over and showed him a new realm of possibilities made for a beautiful story.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Sushi. Yes I know you have to travel out of town to get it. But I just like that it’s different and maybe what is so appealing is that I can’t just get it everyday.
Q: What is your favorite band, artist, or type of music?
A: Probably The Counting Crows. I grew up listening to them at a time in life when music was very important to me. No matter how much I listen I never get sick of it.
Q: What is your favorite recreational activity?
A: Roller skating. I was not an athletic child growing up, kinda chubby, but one thing I could do was skate. I even played in roller derby during grad school.
Q: If there is something you could change about Socorro, what would it be?
A: Being more cohesive as a community. I think that there is this big divide that still exists between being a ‘Techie’ or a ‘Townie’ that doesn’t need to be there. More community events for the kids, especially as a mother, that bring people together. I just don’t want the community to die and become another suburb of Albuquerque because I really love living here.
Whether you’re passing through, spending time as a student, or a local in Socorro looking to spend a nice afternoon, the Bureau of Geology museum is free to the public. The facility is open from 9-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10-3 p.m. on the weekends. If you stop in the gift shop feel free to maneuver your way towards Kelly’s office as she welcomes all visitors with a hello and handshake.