This week, we were able to announce great news relating to our freshman class. We experienced a dramatic 28 percent rise this fall compared to last academic year. Our freshmen class totals 1,576 this fall, compared to 1,229 last year. The current cohort represents our largest first-year class since 2013. This success was the result of the hard work of our colleagues in Admissions, who exceeded expectations, as well as many faculty, staff, students and friends who answered the call during a challenging time for enrollment across the state. Expanded outreach efforts as well as an increase in SVSU-sponsored scholarships and financial aid contributed to this growth. My deep appreciation to everyone who played a part in this and who is hard at work to maintain this momentum.
There is more good news. We have seen significant improvement in our retention rate, which increased by 3 percentage points (from 74.4 to 77.4 percent) compared to last fall semester. An increase of 1 percent in a single year would have been impressive. A 3 percent increase is a testament to faculty and staff dedicated to creating an invigorating, empowering academic environment to support student success.
SVSU prides itself on our commitment to offer a diverse, inclusive environment. I was pleased to learn we were recognized for that effort recently by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. The magazine announced SVSU was a recipient of the 2018 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award. Lenore Pearlstein, the magazine's publisher, said the award was the result of SVSU "showing an exceptional commitment to recruiting and retaining students and employees through their unique programming and initiatives." Examples of these initiatives includes our sponsorship of the annual Great Lakes Bay Region's MLK Celebration; the creation of The Pride Center at SVSU; and the establishment of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Youth Leadership Institute. This marks the second time we have earned the HEED Award in the last three years. Thank you to everyone who continues to make SVSU a more diverse, inclusive campus.
Earlier this week, we hosted a dedication ceremony of the Dr. Bobby Ann Robinson Presentation Hall, located in Groening Commons. Bobby Ann was an adjunct faculty member in the Department of English from 1998-2010. I was able to work alongside her. I saw the passion she felt for her university and students. Bobby Ann never refused a call to serve. I knew I could always count on her because she never gave a second thought to helping others. Her sister, Ruby Robinson, is a proud SVSU alumna who recently offered a gift supporting the building expansion project that will house the Scott L. Carmona College of Business & Management. I enjoyed sharing the stage with Ruby during Monday's ceremony, where we reminisced about Bobby Ann's love for the university and community. Her legacy deserves to be honored this way.
Our university will partner with the Saginaw Community Foundation and Saginaw Intermediate School District next week to host a moderated panel discussion about the history of the Confederate flag and its impact. The event is scheduled for Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. The panel discussion is the first of four planned events aimed at developing the skills and knowledge necessary to foster successful and effective dialogue on important topics affecting our community. It is part of our mission to convene these important but sometimes difficult discussions. Please consider attending as your schedule permits.
Friday and Saturday marks Family Weekend, a highlight of the fall semester for our residential students. Please join me in welcoming the families of students, faculty and staff during all of the activities planned for the occasion. A complete lineup of events is available at Student Life, Sponsored Events.
A number of home games are on the schedule in the coming days. The 4-1-1 women's soccer team plays Purdue Northwest Friday at noon. The team then plays at home versus University of Wisconsin-Parkside Sunday at noon. The women won their most recent contest against Northwood, 2-0, last Sunday.
The football team opens conference play and looks to remain undefeated when Wayne State visits Saturday at 1 p.m. during the Hall of Fame Game. This is the first game after an exciting 21-20 comeback win over Truman last week.
The remainder of our fall sports programs are on the road this weekend. Best wishes to all. Go Cards!
Congratulations to those individuals who will be inducted into the Cardinal Athletic Hall of Fame Saturday. We have an outstanding lineup of former student-athletes including Kathy Bowman Andersen, a nine-time All-American and four-time Academic All-American in women's track; George Ihler, the head football coach for 11 seasons; Zach Myers, a onetime NSCAA National Player of the Year recipient for the men's soccer team; Mark Radlinski, a former All-GLIAC quarterback for the football team; Michael Wolohan, the head physician for our student-athletes for decades; and the 1978 men's cross-country team that finished as runner-up to the national champions.