Sparks Research, Clemson Business School Establish Internship

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Rick Uhlmann, College of Business
September 29, 2016

A local marketing research firm has established an internship program with the College of Business at Clemson University.

Beginning this fall, Sparks Research, based in Clemson, is forging ties with the business school to provide one internship to a student each semester. Rich Groom, CEO and primary partner of Sparks Research, said the newly formed relationship is a win-win for his firm and Clemson.

“What we’re creating through this internship is a great synergistic relationship between the university and Sparks Research,” Groom said. “We’re on one side of the fence analyzing data in the revenue-producing sector and the faculty at Clemson focuses on the teaching methodologies of the business.”

Sparks, which employs 12 full-time and approximately 50 part-time employees in Clemson, located here in the early ’80s. David Sparks, a marketing professor at Clemson, owned the company, which originally focused its marketing research in the financial services sector. Today, the company’s customer portfolio has grown to include many well-known Fortune 100 and local companies, including Wells Fargo, Duke Energy, Michelin, BF Goodrich, Bank of America, Hubbell Lighting, Reader’s Digest, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Walmart, to name a few.

 Marketing Professor, Danny Weathers

Marketing Professor, Danny Weathers

Marketing professors Danny Weathers and Chris Hopkins worked with Groom in establishing the internship program.

“Providing students first-hand experience through an internship like this is invaluable to someone interested in pursuing a career in marketing research,” Weathers said. “Creating a university-community partnership with a well-regarded research firm like Sparks Research is a great example of how Clemson strives to educate beyond the classroom.”

A number of Sparks employees are Clemson alums, including the entire executive team of Groom, Leanna Garrison, COO; John-David McKee, CSO; and Jon Christiansen, Ph.D., CIO, who is also an adjunct professor at Clemson. Groom said the internship holds special meaning because of this deep connection.

“Our employees see this as an opportunity to give back to their alma mater by providing students with a real-world learning experience, and a possible career stepping stone,” Groom added.

More information on the Sparks Research internship and the company’s marketing research business will be provided at a “Lunch and Learn” on Oct. 5 from noon-2 p.m., in 390 Sirrine Hall.