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Millikin University > Alumni & Friends > Stay Connected > Featured Alumni > Posts > Tolley Davis, Ellen ’00

Ellen Tolley Davis ’00 was spotlighted last November as one of “15 to Watch” by PR News Magazine, a journal for the public relations industry. This distinction honors 15 up-and-coming PR executives under age 30 who have the potential to revolutionize the field. Davis was chosen by a panel of corporate, agency and academic executives (as well as the staff of PR News) from among eligible communications experts around the globe.

Davis, senior director of strategic communications at National Retail Federation (NRF) in Washington, D.C., works to elevate the profile of the retail industry to consumers, investors, politicians and the media. Among her accomplishments, Davis coined the phrase “Cyber Monday” which refers to the peak in online shopping the Monday following Thanksgiving. “We all thought it was an anomaly at first,” Davis says, “but when it kept happening year after year, we decided to unveil the trend to the media in November 2005.” Like its counterpart Black Friday (the biggest retail shopping day after Thanksgiving), retailers, consumers and media now look to Cyber Monday as the official start to the online holiday shopping season.

Cyber shopping is becoming a prominent sector of the retail market. “Online shopping is growing substantially, and much more quickly than traditional retail,” Davis says. “Some analysts say that in the future up to 50 percent of all products will be affected by the Internet.” She helps keep the media updated about this trend by providing reporters with timely research and intelligent commentary.

How did her career in retail begin? Born and raised in Galesburg, Ill., Davis majored in communication at Millikin. “I initially thought I wanted to pursue a career in broadcast journalism, but an internship at a TV station completely changed that! I also had a PR internship with United Way of Decatur while I was at Millikin and absolutely loved it,” Davis says. “The public relations field was perfect for me because it combines all of my passions: writing, working with the media, strategy and a lot of interaction with many different people.” After graduating from Millikin, Davis worked at an advertising agency in St. Louis before moving to Washington to work at NRF. “I have referred back so many times to what I learned in communication classes,” Davis says.

Today, Davis is a widely recognized spokesperson for her field. She has appeared on “Your World” with Neil Cavuto, CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and ABC TV’s “Good Morning America.” In addition, Davis is frequently quoted in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Where will she go from here? “I don’t have any set career path or goal,” Davis says. “I’ve thought about writing a book of some sort, continuing my education and then teaching at a university, or starting my own company. For now, though, I’m quite happy talking and learning about retail. There aren’t many better jobs out there for a woman who loves to shop!”

- by Natalie Perfetti ’09

The complete article appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of Millikin Quarterly magazine.


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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL