His love for designs and structures expanded way beyond the classroom. Her passion led the way.

Dr. Moin Uddin, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering, heard a cry for help and could not ignore the task at hand.

“I have this graduate student and she has a Hispanic background – she is from Ecuador,” said Uddin. “She works for language and cultural resource center…She is really passionate about Hispanics and their education. She came with this idea, ‘I would like to write a thesis about Hispanic enrollment in the school,’ … and this is one thing that for a long time I was looking for, especially in this department.”

The student is Denise Chavez Reyes. Chavez Reyes is a student of Uddin’s in the Department of Engineering and could be graduating this spring depending on the duration of her study. She came to ETSU after applying in 2011 when she met Michael Marks from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at ETSU and his wife in Ecuador during educational training.

Chavez Reyes’ passion for Hispanics and education joined conversation with Uddin’s idea to know how he could bring minority students into the department and the rest was history.

When they began to brainstorm on where they would go next, they discovered a couple of roadblocks in their attempt to find an answer.

“When there are students that are graduating from high school, how many get into college?” asked Uddin. “And the student that does go – they don’t complete – they drop out, so there’s a roadblock of completion. However, some are graduating. Therefore, we look at all three phases. We look at what are the roadblocks when the student tries to get into college. What are the issues when they are dropping out and for the folks who are graduating, what really helped them. Those are the things our goal is to look at.”

Currently both Uddin and Chavez Reyes are in the phase of collecting data. Chavez Reyes has done research and conducted surveys with Hispanic students who graduated and a few responses of high school students, but the next step is to gather more responses from those two groups and get data from students who have dropped out.

Uddin also looked at surrounding schools to compare for potential help.

“For example, University of Knoxville at Tennessee…What are they doing? What is the reason why they are successful in recruiting minority students, especially Hispanics?” said Uddin. “So if we see there’s a barrier or if we see what helps students overcome that barrier the element will be higher and that’s how we can validate our moral as well.

According to Pew Research Center, the Hispanic dropout rate was 10 percent in 2016, and according to data from the Census Bureau, the high school dropout rate is extending a decades-long decline.

Uddin hopes to use this study to receive data about other minority groups as well.

Uddin and Chavez Reyes received a RDC grant from the ETSU Office of Research and Sponsored Programs Administration.

There is not a set date for the study to be finished, but they are looking at finishing around fall 2018.