Jay Sparks ’99 is the new director of Columbia College’s Steven and Barbara Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship. Photo by Columbia College Photographer & Graphic Designer Abigail Wade

Dean of the Robert W. Plaster School of Business Jonathon Moberly announced today that Jay Sparks ’99 has been named the new director of Columbia College’s Steven and Barbara Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship.

Sparks will begin serving in the role on Monday, Sept. 11.

The Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship, housed in the Robert W. Plaster School of Business, strives to carry out its mission to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit and promote entrepreneurship as a career choice. Sparks most recently worked as the entrepreneurship coordinator for the Columbia-based Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI).

“This is truly a feeling of coming home,” Sparks says. “As an alumnus, I am beyond excited to continue deepening the community connections Columbia College has with the robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in mid-Missouri. The chance to explore beyond those bounds through recruiting and throughout the college’s nationwide footprint is a wonderful opportunity. I appreciate the chance to do great things.”

“This is truly a feeling of coming home.”

New Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship Director Jay Sparks ’99

Sparks received his Bachelor of Arts in Independent Studies with an emphasis in Philosophy from Columbia College. While a student at CC, he founded the Residential Hall Council Association.

At REDI the past three years, Sparks oversaw significant growth in the agency’s client roster, especially with minority- and women-owned businesses. He worked within a strategic plan to position REDI as a central point of contact for entrepreneurship in the region.

“Columbia College is very pleased to welcome Jay back to campus full-time as one of our own,” Moberly says. “Jay is a proven connector and business coach who brings exciting vision for elevating our students in the Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship. Together we look forward to building upon the positive momentum of this program.”

The Fishman Center hosts an annual Entrepreneurship Showcase and Student Business Pitch Competition. Students in Columbia and across the country develop business ideas and are paired with alumni mentors before presenting their pitches to a panel of judges. Sparks has volunteered as a coach in the pitch competition for several years. As part of the showcase, the college also welcomes a keynote speaker to share insights with budding entrepreneurs.

Throughout the year, the center offers experiential learning based on curriculum; entrepreneurial events and programs; private consultation on entrepreneurial ventures; entrepreneurship mentoring; internship advice and resources; and resource identification.