UNM students
UNM students outside the Student Union Building

Have you ever wanted to find the official numbers and statistics for the University of New Mexico? How about information on degrees, program accreditation, research and finances? Now you can easily find the number of students, the cost of tuition or just about any other number of informative items of interest.

The Offices of Academic Affairs and Institutional Analytics has published a new dashboard and fact book.

The dashboard is “live,” displaying the most current data as it becomes available. It will be continually updated by Institutional Analytics. The UNM Fact Book is the official statistical fact book for the University of New Mexico. The most recent edition covers 2013-15.

The fact book contains a wide range of information and data about the university—including data on students, faculty, and staff. It also contains information about degrees, program accreditation, research and finances.

The dashboard contains a statistical overview of the university, including numbers of students, faculty, and staff on campus, as well as cost of attendance, and other information. It includes various filters and breakdowns of graduation rates and enrollment numbers across colleges, departments, and student levels. Similar information can be found on UNM employees.

UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah said, “The purpose of these dashboards is not so much to provide access to data. The same kinds of data have been available for years in various formats. The significance of the dashboards is to provide the data in a more accessible and intelligible format that allows deans, faculty, directors, and so on to more quickly and easily interpret the data and use it to inform their decision-making.”

The biggest change between the new dashboard and older data formats is the user interface, a combination of function and aesthetics.

Basic counts of things, such as student headcounts, are represented by color-coded bars, and hovering the mouse cursor reveals pop-up figures and labels. The dashboard contains bar graphs and sunbursts that respond immediately (and with eye-pleasing animated transitions) as you click and unclick various check-boxes.

More than providing a visually appealing presentation, the data visualization makes it easier to comprehend the many dimensions of a complex institution. The sunbursts and “Sankey” flows allow users to tackle questions nearly instantaneously through a series of mouse clicks.

The student-flow “Sankey” diagrams available in the dashboard’s “students” section were some of the first data visualization efforts undertaken by Associate Provost Greg Heileman and a small team of institutional researchers and web application specialists. Developed early in 2013, they had already proven valuable in identifying patterns in student movement in and out of colleges and majors, and in and out of the university.

The value of the flow diagrams was most recently presented at the 2015 Higher Learning Commission conference in Chicago in a presentation by Abdallah, Heileman, and Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Terry Babbitt.

The presentation, titled “Visualizing Student Flows: Busting Myths,” demonstrated how the student flow diagrams had upended long-held but mistaken notions about why UNM students struggle or persist on the path to graduation.

“The dashboards now being published have been in development for the last several years, and even in beta stages they had already shown their value in focusing attention on the biggest challenges our students face," said Heileman. “We expect that making this data available more widely will have a much greater impact on the University. Putting better information in the hands of decision makers will make us more efficient and effective. And the better we can do our jobs, the bigger impact it will have on the success of our students.”

Future additions to the dashboard include visualization of New Mexico Graduate Workforce data, which will show how graduates from New Mexico’s universities fare in the job market after graduation.