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James E. Sparks


Adjunct Faculty

Programs/Classes Taught:

Master in Business Administration (MBA)

Bachelor of Science in Management (BSM)

  • Marketing for Manager
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Communications within Organizations

Areas of Expertise:

  • Marketing Strategy
  • Business Development/Sales
  • Acquisition and Loyalty Marketing
  • Product and Project Management
  • Leadership Development
  • Start-ups and Entrepreneurship
  • Sales Promotions (B2C and B2B)
  • Advertising and Agency Management


James E. Sparks (Jim) currently leads The Sparks Group, a communications and branding company he founded to help companies create and sustain growth and navigate the challenges that come with business cycles and expansion. Jim was one of the original marketing members of the successful launch of Discover Card which today is a $4 billion corporation. He established the company’s co-op advertising and card member marketing programs and developed and managed the National Sales Relationship team that was responsible for the top 500 merchants who accepted the Discover Card.

Jim was instrumental in designing the Discover Card Merchant Acquirer Relations program and negotiated contracts with Elavon (previously NOVA), Global Payments, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS Lynk) and numerous other acquirers. His efforts led to the successful conversion of millions of new merchants to Discover Card and the sale of multi-million dollar portfolios for each acquirer. Jim also helped Discover merchants gain international acceptance.

Before joining Discover Card, Jim worked for Continental Bank where he was responsible for marketing communications to high-net-worth customers and held account management positions with several advertising agencies, including Ketchum M&S. He started his advertising and marketing career with the Chicago Sun-Times.

Jim is a trustee for McCormick Theological Seminary and Thresholds, a non-profit serving the homeless; Board Advisor for siyea, a Silicon Valley start-up; and the Otis Wilson Foundation. He earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising and marketing from the University of Illinois in Urbana, and an MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business. Jim is an adjunct professor of marketing strategy at National Louis University in Chicago. 


Masters of Business Administration, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

Bachelor of Science, Advertising and Marketing, University of Illinois – Urbana

Institute of Advance Studies in Advertising, Northwestern University

Research and Interests:

Teaching Philosophy:

I feel strongly that it is never too late for learning and for personal growth.  Every person given the opportunity and has the desire to learn can continue to develop their education. I enjoy adult education because there is a sense of eagerness and accomplishment in the classroom.

Professional Interest: 

Helping start-up companies through the critical life cycle of growth. Serving as a transaction processing and credit card industry expert management consulting firms.

Contact Information:

James E. Sparks, MBA



Phone: 630-366-0770



    NLU’s Chicago campus on South Michigan Avenue occupies five floors of the historic Peoples Gas Building. This landmark building, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, is easily accessible by train, bus and car and is surrounded by restaurants, parking lots/garages and shops.

    122 S. Michigan Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60603
    (888) 658.8632
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    Conveniently located in a fast-growing business district off I-90 and Route 31, NLU Elgin features 10 classrooms with high-tech media equipment; a computer lab with high-speed Internet access; two conference rooms; and comfortable student lounges. Parking is free at this recently remodeled and upgraded teaching site, which now includes wireless Internet access.

    620 Tollgate Road
    Elgin, IL 60123
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    Opened in the summer of 2006, NLU North Shore at Skokie is a state-of-the-art modern campus located just off the Edens Expressway near the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The campus includes 44 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a walk-in lab in the library; six conference rooms; a public café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; and multiple, comfortable student lounge areas.

    5202 Old Orchard Road
    Skokie, IL 60077
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    Located just minutes from the East-West Tollway (I-88), NLU Lisle features 42 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a separate walk-in lab in the library; a café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; conference rooms; and six comfortable student lounge areas with wireless access.

    850 Warrenville Road
    Lisle, IL 60532
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    Located in one of Chicago's major northwest suburbs, the newly renovated NLU Wheeling includes 20 classrooms with high-tech media equipment, four conference rooms, four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, large student lounge areas with wireless capabilities and interactive video capabilities, and an extensive research library. The site also houses the university library research collection.

    1000 Capitol Drive
    Wheeling, IL 60090
    (888) 658.8632
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    Established in 1988 and located in one of Tampa's major business districts, NLU's Florida Regional Center serves students in 13 counties in central Florida. In addition to its classrooms, the National Louis University Tampa Regional Center features a computer lab, student lounges, and conference room.

    5110 Sunforest Drive, Suite 102
    Tampa, FL 33634
    (800) 366.6581
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