UTSA First Generation ‘Birds of a Feather’ Dashboard

Mahmoud Abunawas, Institutional Research Analyst
Brian Cordeau, Director of Reporting
University of Texas at San Antonio

The University of Texas at San Antonio has about 11,000 first-generation students. This visualization was created for UTSA’s First-Generation Festival, which celebrated our first-generation students and raised awareness about their student experiences. More than two dozen UTSA offices set up informational tables during the festival to promote their services and programs. At the festival, the Office of Institutional Research provided a statistical snapshot of first-generation students to faculty, staff, and students.

To do this, the OIR table featured an interactive dashboard in Microsoft Power BI. The dashboard drew on UTSA’s “Birds of a Feather” campaign. The campaign plays on the UTSA mascot (the roadrunner) to highlight student diversity and emphasize student unity. Our dashboard allowed visitors to find their “Birds of a Feather” by filtering the dashboard on first-generation status, college, department, and student level. 


Users can also filter and customize the report based on data by certain parameters. Filtering can be applied by simply selecting the desired parameter using the drop-down menus and/ as pictured below. To view related data for each data point, users can either hover the mouse pointer over the data point or click on it.



The following reporting and visualization practices were applied when designing the dashboard

  • Colors: The two main colors of the dashboard are Blue and Orange, the official colors of UTSA. The colors connote our UTSA identity, but the orange also highlights key statistics against the dark blue background. Since the blue and the orange colors cannot accommodate all of the data elements, UTSA’s secondary color palette is used for complementary accent colors.

  • Elements: The dashboard shows information at a glance, so it is limited to one page/screen. The dashboard provides the most general information at the top left where viewers usually start reading. More details are presented in the direction the audience reads (left-to-right, top-to-bottom). Important statistics, such as the percent of Hispanic students or the number of freshmen, are shown in bright orange to draw the viewer’s attention. Summary icons also showcase important statistics. For example, as UTSA’s main entry gate, a well-recognized landmark on campus, displays the total number of students.

  • Texts and fonts: The dashboard’s text style and font size are mostly consistent throughout. However, when all the text and visuals are the same size, the viewer takes longer to process the information and may lose focus. The dashboard selectively applies different text styles and fonts to draw the viewer’s attention. Our Power BI card visualization, which shows the total number of students, displays the number prominently in large text.

  • Charts: Appropriate and simple charts are used and follow the guidelines listed below.

    • Charts that distort reality (3-D charts), donut charts, gauges and other circular charts types are avoided because it is difficult to judge the quantitative value of a curved space and make accurate comparisons between categories. Note that circular charts can work sometimes if you have 4 or fewer categories that you are showing—more than 5 warrants the use of a bar chart. 

    • Chart axis scales, chart dimension ordering, and colors used for dimension values are consistent throughout the dashboard.

    • Large numbers are displayed in short format and do not exceed four or five digits. Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.

    • Chart categories are sorted appropriately, either based on size or interest. For example, the chart displaying the number of students by college is sorted by size (largest to smallest). The axis of the classification chart is sorted by the category of interest (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior 




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