Even after Ashton Davies (‘12) moved away from Tennessee, she always managed to stay linked to the Volunteer state. Whether it be as an intern for former U.S. Senator Bob Corker, or as communications director for former U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, or in her current role as the senior partner of strategic communications at the Tennessee Valley Authority, Davies has always been close to her roots. Those deep roots do not just extend to the state of Tennessee, but also to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. That is why the College of Communications and Information graduate was ecstatic when she found out she made the Volunteer 40 Under 40 Class of 2022.
“My blood truly runs orange, so when I was selected as a Volunteer 40 Under 40, it was a huge honor and so meaningful because of how much I care about Tennessee,” Davies said. “It is also such a privilege to be in such great company with folks who have made an incredible difference in their respective professions.”
Davies grew up making weekend trips to from her hometown of Nashville to Knoxville to go to all the Tennessee Vols football games with family. She chose to attend Tennessee over the University of Alabama, joining generations of family members who were Volunteers before her. She came to campus with her sights set on becoming a sports reporter, but that trajectory changed. Through opportunities provided by the university and the College of Communications and Information (CCI), Davies discovered her passion was in political communications. She ended up double-majoring in communications and political science.
“I felt like [CCI] helped you find internships and opportunities to gain invaluable, firsthand experience in the real world,” Davies said.
Davies credits two lecturers at CCI with giving her the tools to be successful and setting her on a course that eventually led her to her current role: Megan Fields, a public speaking lecturer for CCI, and Georgina Vines, who taught political communications and with whom Davies eventually worked with professionally in her role with Senator Alexander. She has used the skills from both of those classes regularly in her professional career and said having that experience gave her confidence and the clarity to communicate when she faces obstacles and hurdles.
Additionally, Davies utilized the opportunities the university provided serving as an anchor for The Volunteer Channel and land ambassador for CCI. Both of those opportunities not only increased her confidence in a communications setting, but also the ability to make quick decisions when under deadlines—a significant characteristic needed later in her career.
“UT was great about not only giving you the tools to be successful, but also providing the real world applications. For example, CCI taught me how to work a camera, how to talk in front of a camera, how to write a press release, craft social media, and more, which helped me to be effective in my various roles—I knew what I was doing. UT also taught me how to be a leader, how to earn respect, to persevere, and be relentless in completing any task,” Davies said.
As soon as Davies was officially a Volunteer, she seized every opportunity she could to serve the university. She was a Volunteer athletics ambassador, president of her sorority, a U.S. Senator Howard H. Baker scholar, vice president of the College Republicans, and a member of the Student Government Association.
“I tried to take advantage of everything I could on campus—it made me feel a part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to be an example of the spirit of a true Volunteer; bringing light to others,” she said.
Davies originally planned to attend law school at UT, but her internship with Senator Corker in Washington, D.C., completely changed her life. She had already worked on local and state campaigns in Tennessee, so moving to the nation’s capital was a natural next step. She went on to work at the Republican National Committee, and then as communications director for Senator Lamar Alexander. Davies also met her husband, Ryan, in Washington, and they now have a 1-year-old daughter, Adaline Belle. Davies is already making plans for her daughter’s first visit to Neyland Stadium, carrying on a tradition her dad started with her 25 years ago.
Davies has been excited to see UT make even more connections with D.C., and every time a UT student crosses her path, she always makes time for them. As she said, “Being a Vol lasts a lifetime, and I want to help others, just like people helped me.”
“That Volunteer spirit has been a huge guiding point for me and my career, and life in general. It means something to be a VFL; it means giving back, sharing the light to those in need, making a difference, bleeding orange as long as you can breathe and making the world better than when you found it,” Davies concluded.