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Published December 12, 2019

Maria Melendez Kelson is a new professor of English and literature at Dodge City Community College.

A native of northern California, Kelson has a bachelor’s in English from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, and a master’s in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, from University of California, Davis. She also has published two books of poetry, under the name of Maria Melendez, with University of Arizona Press.

After spending 10 years at Pueblo Community College, in Pueblo, Colo., Kelson’s family decided to make a move to Kansas in 2019.

“What appealed to me about this particular campus was the diversity of the community. And the unique position of the campus among Kansas community colleges to be in such a diverse community.”

Kelson said her move to DC3 will help her build on her community college experience, as well as grow it.

“My previous job in Colorado was also at a community college. But, that campus did not have athletics,” she said. “I like the way athletics add to campus spirit, and I’ve enjoyed going to games with coworkers. It is a new experience for me.”

Kelson also said she thinks the DC3 faculty are hard-working, and the DC3 administration is supportive of initiatives that will improve student success. She is also impressed with the way DC3 students persist in the face of personal difficulties, she said.

When away from the classroom, Kelson loves to write and to read.

“Writing is one of my passions,” she said. “So, I am always writing. Right now I am working on some fiction projects.”

Before leaving Colorado, Kelson received a grant to write some short fiction inspired by women’s history, which she will be wrapping up this semester.

“I am interviewing two rural women of color in Colorado,” she said. “One of them is the last surviving member of an African-American farming community in eastern Colorado, and that farming community no longer exists. Nobody lives out there anymore. But she has lots of memories of growing up in this community.

“So, I am interviewing her and writing some fiction inspired by her stories. And I’m also interviewing a Hispanic woman who lives in this traditionally Hispanic area called the San Luis Valley, also in southern Colorado. She harvests wild foods and makes jellies and sells them. I’m writing fiction inspired by her life, too.”

In addition to short fiction, Kelson said she is also working on her first novel, which is a murder mystery. She plans to seek publication, after she completes revisions.

Kelson has been married to John Gallagher for almost 23 years, and they have a son and a daughter in college. Her husband is the director of the Dillon Nature Center in Hutchinson, Kan.

Kelson also has two dogs. One is a cattle dog mix, and the other is a border collie mix.

By Lance Ziesch