Spark-Lipscomb’s Idea Center, will celebrate its grand opening on Thursday, Nov. 8 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., at its location at 3252 Aspen Grove Dr. in Franklin. The 6,400-square-foot Spark is Lipscomb University’s first university-operated off-campus facility, now open in the Cool Springs area in Williamson County.
Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Williamson County Schools Director Mike Looney, Williamson County Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Brad Dunn and Lipscomb University President L. Randolph Lowry will make remarks during the opening ceremony, which will begin at 6 p.m. Tours of Spark will be given following the ceremony.
The facility is designed to create an environment for innovative ideas in learning, business, faith and the community. A technology-rich facility, Spark offers flexible space and innovative delivery systems for corporations and community organizations in the area who are looking for a meeting venue that encourages fresh thinking as well as for Lipscomb graduate, executive education and certificate students.
Spark is quickly becoming a destination for corporate meetings because of the flexibility of its meeting space, the technology, custom-branding capability and customer service, among other features. Recently, the Williamson County Chamber opted to move its monthly board meetings to Spark and other partnerships are in the works.
Also, in just its first few weeks of operation, Spark is nearly at capacity for its academic programming. This fall, more than 76 students are enrolled across five academic programs, including graduate programs in business, information technology management, information security and marriage and family therapy in addition to a certificate program in behavioral studies in education.
“Spark represents the next generation of growth for the university as well as progressive thinking about education space,” said Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry. “Spark is part of the university’s larger strategy to take innovative education and professional development opportunities to prospective participants in surrounding areas, offering them access to Lipscomb’s services and facilities without them having to be physically located on our Nashville campus in Green Hills. “This site allows us to promote and grow our existing programs into a new market and provide a much-needed service to this region.”
Spark is a multi-purpose space providing the physical capability to accommodate various learning needs. On evenings and weekends, several graduate programs are offered. By day, it is a corporate meeting facility already being used by several of the area’s businesses.
Spark consists of three learning spaces, each accommodating 20 to 40 participants depending on group size needed. Walls may also be reconfigured to create one large space. The result is a flexible space for event and corporate learning activities that can quickly accommodate a need as small as one-on-one meetings or as large as a 150-person lecture.
Additional spaces include a catering kitchen, a video conferencing center and two conference rooms along with a pre-function entry space that can be branded to participant use and is designed to hospitably welcome students, professionals and visitors.
In January, additional cohorts in the graduate programs in information technology management and information security will be added along with a new master’s degree program in engineering management and several graduate education programs moving to the facility. Next fall, additional cohorts in graduate business and education programs will be added, bringing Spark to its capacity for academic programs.
“Our students are having a unique experience at Spark,” said John Lowry, executive director of Spark. “It has been fun to watch how they are growing together as cohorts. We serve our students a meal before class begins every night, and they are showing up early and spending time working with to know their classmates. That makes them a stronger cohort. I love watching that dynamic.”
“Our students have said the location of Spark is the reason they are enrolled in our academic programs. They are able to work a full day, drive a short distance to our facility, eat dinner and get to class on time with convenient parking.”
Williamson County seemed a natural location for the university’s new initiative, said Lowry.
“Our research has found that the demographics of Williamson County and the surrounding area make it one of the best counties in the country to offer graduate education,” he said. “Fifty-two percent of people living in the vicinity of Spark have college degrees and tend to be younger and more affluent than average. Williamson County leaders are excited about Lipscomb University being a part of their community and are partnering with us to enhance educational and professional development opportunities in this area. This facility also benefits from the university’s experience in hosting numerous successful community and corporate events on Lipscomb’s main campus in Nashville as it brings this new and innovative meeting space to Williamson County.”
Spark is also a testing site for innovative teaching methods and technology before it is integrated to programs on the university campus in Nashville. Lowry said the enoTM boards, SteelcaseTM node chairs and media lounge that are used at Spark have gotten a favorable reaction from students, faculty and clients.
“This technology and modern design has greatly enhanced the learning and meeting environment and will be something that may be considered at the university campus after it has been tested here,” said Lowry.
“Spark is being used day and night and is not like any other place in Tennessee,” said Lowry. “We believe there is a magic that happens when you combine outstanding content with technology, hospitality, convenience and a state-of-the art environment. That is what Spark is about and that is what people and businesses want to be a part of.”