The Spark Plug

Spark Student Spotlight

Today we get an opportunity to tell you a little bit about one of our Students here at Spark. 

Our Spark Student Spotlight for November is about Marriage & Family Therapy Student Emily Pardy. 

Where is your hometown?
I grew up on a farm in the middle of Kansas. 
What Program are you enrolled in and how far along in the program are you?
Masters in Marriage & Family Therapy (MMFT)
I'm a second year student, I will finish in August 2015!
What interested you in Lipscomb?
I was interested in Lipscomb because of it's rich Christian history and high academic regard.  I wanted to be challenged as a student, encouraged in my faith, and surround myself with a community I can depend on even after graduation.
What are your favorite things about Spark?
Spark is an excellent facility!  It's both aesthetically inspirational as well as practical.  It's been great to gather there each week, eat dinner with my classmates, and incorporate my learning experience in such a socially stimulating setting.  The friendly staff has also been a tremendous help throughout my time there!
What do you like about being a part of a cohort for classes?
The cohort experience is unlike any other.  I can genuinely call each classmate a friend, as we've grown very close through this challenging season of our lives.  It's a unique journey to walk through grad school together, and I know that I've developed a deeper understanding of belonging because of the people I've shared this journey with.  Even though I will leave Lipscomb when I graduate, I will forever be part of this cohort and look forward to years of sharing life beyond the classroom.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
My husband, Josh, and I moved to Nashville 18 months ago from Southern California.  We will celebrate 8 years of marriage this month, and we have two daughters that keep us on our toes!  Matilda (5) and Daphne (3) inspire me to keep my priorities in line, focusing on family before homework!  When I'm not studying, I write about motherhood on my blog as well as contribute to ParentLife magazine and other Christian publications.  
Tell us a little about your book:
I'm excited to announce that my first book is getting published!  For All Maternity will be released May 1, 2015!  I wrote it to encourage couples newly initiated into the throws of parenthood, as well as for those considering taking the plunge!  Filled with personal struggles and humorous anecdotes from my own life, I hope to shed light on the realities of motherhood and the impact it has on your relationship with God, spouses, and friends.
Photo provided by Emily
Be sure to look for Emily's work on her blog & in publication! And we would like to congratulate Emily on her Book being published this Spring! Check back closer to time as we will be sure to share information on where it will be available! 
Posted by Steven Durham -

Spark Spotlight

Did you know our facility adapts to your needs? We are able to accommodate groups of 2 to 100 with ease! Each of our rooms has unique features that allow us to serve your group in the best way possible. Today we want to focus on our Media Lounge. 

The Media Lounge is the perfect room for a meeting that may require a small team to work collaboratively across several devices. The technology that is installed will allow your group to connect up to 4 different devices each with a dedicated viewing screen. With a push button selection system, you can quickly select which device is connected to the monitors and you can swap between them just as easily. This setup allows everyone to see what each person has to share without them having to view on a small screen, with bad angles, or even look over each other’s shoulders. The Media Lounge has a white board for working through ideas and all the office supplies we have available in our larger rooms!

Do you need to show a presentation to just a few people or work on a project with your team of up to 6 around a conference table? This could be the perfect room for you. Let us know how we can help!

Posted by Steven Durham -

From the vault: Liberal Arts Education

Today, we dig back into our vault of content to bring you a blog that our Executive Director John Lowry wrote about Liberal Arts Universities preparing students. We hope you will enjoy this post from last year! Check back for new blog posts later this month!


Liberal arts universities prepare students for bright future


Who cares what Socrates thought? Or about how our country was founded? Or how to interpret one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces?


Businesses. That’s who. They care because employees who are familiar with those and many other subjects are among the most productive.


And, employees. They should care because by possessing a spectrum of knowledge and problem-solving skills they will likely be more successful during their careers.


So, how does one acquire this sage knowledge? Through a liberal arts education.


As higher education rightly embraces innovation and diversifies its offerings, one fact remains. A liberal arts education still has tremendous value to students and employers and will continue to be the best model of higher education for many.


But is it still affordable and accessible? Yes.


Contrary to the notion that these universities are no longer an attractive option for low income or middle class students, 90 percent of students attending Tennessee’s liberal arts institutions receive some form of financial aid, with the majority in the form of institutional merit scholarships or grants. Over one-third receives the federal Pell Grant, made available only for low-income families. In fact, Christian Brothers University in Memphis, has made a strategic commitment to reach out to low-income students as nearly 70 percent of its student body receive the PELL grant.


While many new higher education models are proving successful, a liberal arts education may appear to be old fashioned or out-of-date. Many business leaders disagree.


A recent poll by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows that of 318 CEOs and nonprofit group leaders surveyed, an overwhelming majority would recommend a “21st century liberal education” to someone they know. Nearly 80 percent of those employers who participated said broad knowledge in liberal arts and sciences was important, regardless of what a graduate chose as his college major.


A recent Northeastern University survey found that 73 percent of business leaders said that it is more important for job candidates to be well rounded with a range of abilities than to have industry expertise because “job-specific skills can be learned at work.”


Why? Because a liberal arts education equips future employees with the ability to engage in thoughtful, meaningful and engaged dialogue. It also offers soft skills such as the opportunity to work in teams and to hone oral, interpersonal and written communication skills.


These are valuable skills for anyone who wants to interact successfully with fellow employees and clients in the workplace and for making crucial business decisions. It also makes for a better intellectually rounded employee who is viable in this rapidly changing world even when his technical and practical skills become obsolete.


Critical thinking and problem solving skills never go out of style. It’s like the old adage: “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man how to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”


According to a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, unemployment is among the lowest in the country for those with liberal arts degrees. A liberal arts education helps individuals easily segue into a variety of careers. And, that’s a good thing considering data from a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics study that found that the number of jobs that people born in the years 1957 to 1964 held form age 18 to age 46 that indicates this group held an average of 11.3 jobs during this time period.


A report from the Social Science Research Council shows students with skills typically taught in these programs tend to be more successful after graduation. Mid-career liberal arts degree holders earn more money on average than their counterparts who have career-focused degrees.


Hardware engineer Vivek Ranadivé , who has degrees from some of the top universities in the nation in engineering and business, recently wrote in Forbes that he believes “a liberal arts degree is more of an asset than learning any trade” because skills may become obsolete over time. He believes that “if you teach people how to think and look at lots of information and connect dots — all skills that a classic liberal education give you — you will thrive.”


These institutions also have an impact on the state’s economy. According to a study by the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, liberal arts universities in Tennessee have an $8.1 billion annual economic impact on the state. These more than 30 institutions across the state employ more than 30,000 faculty and staff, and their external activities sustain an additional 301,000 jobs in local communities. More than 77,750 students attend these colleges and universities, which award a third of the college degrees in Tennessee.


Today, many of Tennessee’s future business leaders are acquiring knowledge, debating ideas and sharpening their professional skills in the classroom of a liberal arts institution. According to the data, there is perhaps no better place for them to be. Our future depends on it.



—John Lowry is executive director of Spark, Lipscomb University’s Idea Center, where he helps businesses and organizations strategically plan for the future.

Posted by Steven Durham -

Fall Break - Travel Tips

As many school's fall breaks are upon us and many families will be traveling, it is a good time to look back at some of the travel tips we gave back in the summer. All of these are good tips for trips any time of year!


Now that schools are finally out of session for the summer, many families are preparing for vacations. I know in my family our normal day to day schedule is very full. Unfortunately this leaves us little time to pack and properly prepare for our trips. Because of this, there are things that I try to do each time we prepare for a trip to make things easier. I wanted to share some things I've learned and hopefully some of these things can help you prepare for your family’s upcoming trip!


  • Keep a universal packing list – I have realized over the years that many of the things that end up being forgotten when packing for a trip are often the seemingly obvious things we use everyday. I have created a digital list that has items that are used on many of our trips. This list includes phone chargers, extra shoes, hanging clothes, our camera & our pillows. Some items on your universal list may not be needed for every trip, but it’s best to keep them on the list. It may help you remember that item for the next trip.


  • Specific trip packing list – Because each trip is different, you need a specific list for each one. Best-case scenario, a few weeks before a trip takes place you should start making a list of trip specific items. Examples might be camping equipment, items for the beach, or things you need to take to a family member you are visiting. Be as detailed as possible because even though some of these items will seem obvious, as I said before, the obvious tends to get overlooked in packing.


Extra tip: Does your family take a reoccurring trip? Keep a permanent list for that trip and keep it up to date. If you learn that your trip would be easier with another item, add it to the list. Or if you find out that an item is unnecessary for future trips, remove it. This will keep you from taking the time to create a new list each time.


  • Packing for flying – There are plenty of restrictions when it comes to flying. To help you pack for your trip, keep up to date on the latest restrictions. The TSA ( has a great informational site and a brand new TSA Kids page that can help adults and children alike learn more about flying. Something important to note is that many airlines are now allowing portable electronic devices to be used gate to gate in airplane mode. This can be very helpful for anyone to pass the time.


  • Packing for car travel – One of the easiest ways to save some time and money is to pack a cooler for your trip. Instead of having to stop to pay for food and drinks along the way, you can pack them to allow more flexibility for your trip. Having electronic chargers for the car can help keep those electronics you have become accustomed to using running for your entire trip. Sometimes traveling at night is the best option, so having blankets & pillows available for passengers who may want to sleep is always a good idea.


  • Traveling with Kids – I feel like this topic could be an entire blog post in itself. As a relatively new parent, I have limited experience with this on the parent side. However, I remember some things about traveling as a kid that helped me pass the time, and I have read a few things that I look forward to try in the coming years. Having plenty of snacks and drinks is a good start. Also, packing activity books, favorite toys, movies or other electronic devices can be crucial to a happy trip. Keep in mind that children do not have the same patience level for traveling that many adults have learned to have. Even though it may make the total time of a trip longer, sometimes it’s best to stop to get children out of the car for a while. This could mean stopping at a park, a playground, or finding another point of interest on your travel route that might be fun, interesting, and allow everyone to move around.


  • Safety first – Just like airlines go through a safety check on each plane before every flight, always check your car to be sure that it is in top running condition before your trip. This includes checking fluid levels, tire pressures, battery charge and windshield wiper blades. If you are getting close to your next oil change and you normally take your vehicle somewhere to be serviced, it’s a good idea to do it early. Most places that do oil changes will also check all of these things while you are there for service. Always know your travel route ahead of time. Even though using a GPS is a great tool to help with driving, not knowing your route ahead of time can cause you to make quick and unexpected turns. It’s also handy to keep a map or atlas in the car as well. There are times that a detour may be necessary and while maps on a phone are great, there are times where cell service may be spotty.


  • Make reservations – It’s always good to have a plan, and by planning ahead you can usually save some money as well. Make your travel plans early in order to save the most money and ensure you get to do what you want. This includes hotels, airfare, rentals, tickets to shows or activities, or even some restaurants.


  • Think about your health – Always keep in mind that it is important to take care of yourself. Stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, use sunscreen, take medications and keep up with any healthy routines you keep at home.


  • Have fun and be flexible – Last but not least, make sure you make your trip what you want it to be. While it’s great to have a plan & schedule for your trip, be flexible. Plan some free time into your trip to give you options. You may reach your destination only to find something you want to include in your trip that you didn’t already know about. Since the weather doesn’t always cooperate with your plans, check it to help you plan your stay and if possible swap your plans to help maximize the good weather. However, keep in mind that in some cases a less than perfect weather day can make for a more enjoyable time since it will keep the crowds away.


I hope that you have seen something that can help you out this summer! Be sure to enjoy it!


Steve Durham

Posted by Steven Durham -

Back to School Time!

We hope you have enjoyed your summer, but as teachers and students go back to school over the next few weeks we wanted to give you a few things to think about while you prepare your family for the transition. 


Possibly the most pressing thing is the back to school shopping. Here in Tennessee, Tax-free weekend is upon us, so will be the first thing to cover. With so many items on the shopping list each year, it’s hard to know what is covered under the Tax-Free Holiday and what is not. For example, a computer purchase would be exempt but computer hardware is not unless it is sold with a new computer.  Also, belts are exempt, but belt buckles that are sold separately are not. Most retailers have their registers set up to automatically exempt tax on the proper items. It can get confusing but if you have questions, you can always refer to the Tennessee Tax Holiday website.


Always be sure to check ahead for sales, as many retailers do special back to school sales, even on top of the Tax Free Weekend. Some of these sales may only be available on certain days and times, so it may help to plan ahead. Keep in mind, some retailers will also have special business hours associated with these sales and the tax-free holiday. You can take advantage of these hours, and beat some of the long lines by getting an early start.


As your children go back to school, be sure to meet their teachers and administrators. By creating a good relationship with those instructing your children, you will create an open dialogue with other adults who are interested in helping your children succeed. This open dialogue will help both sides to share information including the excitement in successes, and concern about disappointments.


When you meet them, be sure to ask teachers what you can do to help your child learn and succeed in the subject they teach. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to particular subjects, but that doesn’t mean that you can only help your child’s progress in certain subjects. There are many ways that you can help your children learn concepts in subject, even if you may not be as skilled in it as you might be in another. If you let the teachers know you may feel weak in your ability to help your child in their subject, they will have some ideas of how you can still help.


We hope you have a great beginning to the school year! For some more tips you can also check a post from the US Department of Education’s blog from last year.

Also, If you are here in Williamson County, the WCS inFocus site has lots of information about the upcoming school year.

Posted by Steven Durham -