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NMSU assistant professor named a 2020 Woman of Influence by Albuquerque Business First

Two cups of dedication, three tablespoons of perseverance and a pinch of love is the perfect recipe that led Kelley Coffeen to be named one of the 2020 Women of Influence for the state of New Mexico by Albuquerque Business First.


Woman in kitchen
Kelley Coffeen, an assistant professor in the Clothing, Textiles & Fashion Merchandising program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, has been named one of the 2020 Women of Influence for the state of New Mexico by the Albuquerque Business First. (Photo by Nicolette Young)

“As I reflect on my life, I want to be seen as a woman who serves others in many ways,” Coffeen said.

Coffeen, an assistant professor in the Clothing, Textiles & Fashion Merchandising program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, began her food writing career 25 years ago. After taking a class at Doña Ana Community College, she learned how to self-publish and has since published seven books.

Coffeen’s first book, “Great College Cookbook of the Southwest” landed her and her co-author an appearance on “Good Morning America,” where she represented New Mexico with a green chile dish and sold every copy of her book.

Continuing on that high note, Coffeen soon began to host a weekly regional cooking segment on KTSM-TV in El Paso, “Kelley’s Kitchen,” which aired for more than 10 years.

“My on-air experience led to the publication of two of my books, ‘Fiesta Mexicali’ and ‘Simply 7.’ I then went on to write ‘300 Best Taco Recipes’ and ‘200 Easy Mexican Favorites’ with Robert Rose Publishing,” Coffeen said. “People enjoy the way I cook: it’s simple, economical, stress-free, fun and healthy.”

Coffeen’s most recent book, and one she holds close to her heart is “Tex-Mex Diabetes Cooking: More than 140 Authentic Southwestern Favorites.” The book was created with the American Diabetes Association and includes low carb recipes. Coffeen wrote the book for her mother, who had an endless love for Mexican cuisines but was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in her sixties.

“I started researching and developing Mexican and Tex-Mex low carb and diabetes-friendly recipes. Diabetes and prediabetes care cost is estimated at $2 billion in New Mexico each year,” Coffeen said. “So, given these numbers, this cookbook has had a huge impact on many families in our state.”

Sadly, Coffeen lost her mother before she was able to publish her book due to complications with diabetes.

“Her struggle was not unique but exemplifies the difficulties so many have with this disease,” Coffeen said. “Creating this collection of recipes has given me a great sense of purpose and professional accomplishment.”

Coffeen hit a defining moment in her life when she ventured back to school at the age of 50 to earn her Ph.D. She received her degree in educational leadership and administration with a focus on Latino studies in order to teach students at a college level. While attending classes, she worked full time and raised her two children.

“I am not unique, just driven to succeed,” Coffeen said. “This educational experience gave me a broader view of what underserved populations experience in life, especially in the border region.”

In the last year of her studies, Coffeen was hired as the assistant dean of advancement in the College of Education. Over three years, she was able to greatly increase funding and in one year was able to surpass $1.3 million to fund student scholarships and programs that in-part helped to support first-generation students.

Currently, Coffeen is teaching fashion merchandising in the College of ACES.

When Coffeen is not spending time coming up with new recipes for a cookbook, she is using her culinary work to help her community. She has partnered with the Joslin Center at Harvard Medical School and NMSU to develop diabetes-friendly recipes and host virtual cooking classes for rural multi-cultural communities within the state. Coffeen also has a partnership with Wells Fargo to launch The Wardrobe Building for Economic Mobility, a project that will guide low-income residents on building professional work wardrobes through educational workshops.

To reach top levels of leadership in business, Coffeen believes that women must be aware of their talents and interests, set goals and create a balanced plan for their life.

“By acknowledging my culinary talent, it was critical to start these steps and create my plan,” Coffeen said. “Women must invest in and value themselves by taking care of their financial, physical and mental health. Feeling confident in these areas will create an environment of peace so their careers can thrive. Self-care and a balanced life are essential for strong leaders.”

To purchase one of Coffeen’s books, visit: https://amzn.to/32s3O2W