Four years ago when Robert Frank began his presidency at The University of New Mexico, one of his main goals was to increase student academic success. Now, through the Institute for Design and Innovation (IDI) – coupled with the implementation of a suite of new analytics tools – advisers, faculty, and administrators can track student success with unprecedented accuracy.

“This initiative puts UNM one step closer to fulfilling our student success goals,” Frank said. “It is a cutting edge, data-driven method to better track our students, identify obstacles that may be slowing their progress and help them move toward graduation more effectively and efficiently.”

UNM Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Chaouki Abdallah created IDI last November to enhance student academic progress at UNM and in the state as a whole. Its mission is to support technology-facilitated innovation in higher education in the State of New Mexico and the nation by creating and sharing innovative solutions that support students from exploration to outcomes.

“IDI is the structure created by the office of academic affairs in response to the direction of the president and the board of regents,” Abdallah said. “It shows that we can respond quickly to the new realities of higher education, and it has allowed us to be very nimble and effective by reallocating and targeting our intellectual resources towards solving problems faced by UNM and other universities. At meetings with other provosts across the nation, simply providing a glimpse of IDI's capabilities and products makes UNM the envy of most colleges.”

Frank also tasked the group with building online degree roadmaps for every undergraduate program at UNM. The degree roadmaps, available at, are now widely used by UNM students and advisors, and have generated more than two million visits over the past three years.  

UNM is already seeing benefits from its student success efforts, which are supported by these new analytical tools, including more than a 7 percent increase in 6-year graduation rates, all-time records in 4-year graduation rates each of the past two years. UNM is on track and will likely set another record for 4-year graduation rate this year.

This work is being partially supported by a Research and Public Service Project (RPSP) in collaboration with the New Mexico Higher Education Department (HED), and leverages the data and expertise made available by UNM’s Office of Institutional Analytics. The goal of the RPSP is to support Gov. Susana Martinez's and Secretary of Higher Education Barbara Damron's initiatives related to improving access and success rates as well as transfer and articulation in higher education statewide.

In particular, the IDI is working with the HED to support Secretary Damron's trifecta of reform initiatives including:

  1. Statewide common course numbering and alignment of lower division coursework (to share 80 percent of the student learning outcomes).
  2. Developing meta-majors and transfer modules.
  3. Reforming the general education core curriculum.

"Tracking student success, while guiding them to a four-year graduation, is key to continuing to diversify our workforce and economy," said Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron. "The work being done at UNM is already showing promising results and is as an example of the positive impact that bold reforms have for our students. I have no doubt that their work will continue to benefit our students and schools across the state."

Provost Chaouki Abdallah and Higher Education Department Secretary Barbara Damron talk about UNM's new Institute for Design and Innovation and the new new analytical tools they are designing for student success.

In an effort to reach those goals, UNM has created a number of analytics-based dashboards using a JavaScript dashboard framework developed by IDI. UNM has developed in-house technology to support the work, ranging from visualization and analytics/reasoning engines, to data warehousing frameworks that make UNM very agile in terms of its ability to rapidly answer questions related to student success.

A sample of some of work produced by the IDI includes:

Degrees – UNM degree exploration website for the University of New Mexico. UNM is creating similar web application for seven other institutions of higher education in the State of New Mexico to be delivered in August 2017.

Workforce – This site contains New Mexico employment data for every person that received credentials or degree from an institution of higher education over the past 10 years in the state.

Informatics Degrees – A dashboard showing the progress UNM has made in reforming its curriculum university-wide after allowing undergraduate degree programs to be reduced from 128 to 120 credit hours.

Analytics – This dashboard is used to track the progress of students matriculated in a given academic program. There is also a tutorial associated with this dashboard (upper right hand corner of the dashboard). This dashboard brings together a large amount of student data (for a fictitious university, as FERPA laws would apply to real student data) with degree progress tracking.

Showcase – This dashboard provides a showcase of some of the dashboards UNM has developed. 

Student Flows – This provides a visualization of how students move through the various colleges and departments at UNM.  

Informatics – A fact book dashboard for the UNM Provost Office. The Overview tab shows high-level facts (click on the bars in the dashboard), and the Students tab shows student success metrics, enrollment, etc.

“There is a push nationwide to use data and analytics to better understand the issues that impact student academic success, with the intent of informing improvement efforts in higher education. The IDI is at the forefront of this movement,” added Associate Provost Greg Heileman. “Our immediate goal is to use these newly developed capabilities to track the progress of student cohorts at UNM, and to use this information to more intentionally advise them toward on-time graduation.”