Michael Toland grew up in the small rural farm town of Wapakoneta, Ohio, raised by his maternal grandfather. It was there that he first found his passion in the creative arts, focusing on music, specifically choir and musical theater. He also dabbled in writing, but he was never able to master visual arts – they always ended in a mess.

Michael studied English at The Ohio State University, focusing on poetry, script writing, and interdisciplinary studies that brought science and music into his works. Fortunate enough to take classes under esteemed poet Kathy Fagan, he learned the art and craft of poetry. Two of his works, “Foolish” and “A Transcript of War,” were published by Mosaic, the undergraduation literary magazine of tOSU. He also was taught by theater professor and critic Dr. Joy Reilly, who taught him to write with his authentic voice and create dynamic monologues, short plays, and characters. Michael also attended her workshop group known as “The Writing Company,” and helped support the group upon graduating with his Bachelor of Arts.

Through “The Writing Company,” Michael met the incredible Jennifer L. Harris. Harris approached him in the winter of 2008 to edit a play she was writing for the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum. Her play, It’s Because You’re White, focused on an interractial college-age couple and the difficulties they faced in the mid-2000s. Through the editing process, Harris and Toland became such great collaborators that she chose him to direct the play, and together, they produced and presented the play for a three night run, utilizing a $1000 award from the Denman Forum, which sold out every night. The play garnered attention, and even received an interview with WOSU’s Theater Critic, Dr. Joy Reilly.

Upon graduating in June 2008, Michael dealt with the global financial crisis by working temporary jobs through a placement agency before landing a Customer Service role at Verizon in February 2009. For nearly a decade, Michael moved through Verizon, advancing to the position of Strategy & Operations Consultant in Verizon’s Bill-to-Cash Finance team, working on business architecture, project management, and process & operation improvement. When Verizon offered a generous voluntary severance package in late 2018, Michael made the decision to take the package.

Michael is also a 2018 Fellow of the New Leaders Council and serves on the Executive Board of the Columbus Chapter as the Institute Co-Chair. He leads the flagship program of the New Leaders Council Institute – a six month training and development program for young progressives. Through this work, Michael has rededicated his passions toward advancing leadership skills for the 2019 Fellows, and focuses on shaping the Columbus community. He has vested interests in transit, business and community development, social equity and justice, and the intersection of these topics as Columbus grows and prospers.

In his freetime, Michael still pursues his deep passion for writing and communication. His work focuses on emotion through dispassionate images that stand in for so much more than a single word can define. He now supports new writers, works with workshops, and helps others to hone their craft. He also is a member of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra Chorus as a Bass II.