Our Mission
A Voice out of the Midwest

Midstory is a 501(c)(3) non-profit thinkhub that progresses the narrative of the Midwest by incubating bright, diverse and interdisciplinary thinkers to exchange ideas and envision the future of our region through multimedia storytelling and solutions-oriented research since its founding in 2018.

As an educational media organization, we inform, interpret and inspire in and for the Midwest and believe that our region’s challenges can be our greatest asset to drive renewed interest and human capital into post-industrial cities.

Our Midstory began
within the muddy, densely forested swamps left behind by ancient glaciers.
Echoing early incoming settlers — aspiring
milestone to milestone
on a 31-mile path through Northwest Ohio, stopping to rest after every arduous mile — we pass through many stations, each transitory stop a makeshift but deliberate home.
The original journey of living mile-to-mile, of stationing within a swamp, forms the core of our inspiration for coming home. 
Following the journeys of settlers, modern pioneering stories continue to inform the Northwest Ohio regional identity; these accounts of place-making tell a cross-sectional story of the changing American Dream and of the greater human narrative of finding home on an unrelenting and chaotic planet.  
Midstory is dedicated to inform, interpret and inspire in post-industrial communities across the Midwest through multimedia storytelling and solutions-oriented research.
Our Vision is to have a powerful midstory in the nation, curating a voice for postindustrial communities—toward renewed socio-cultural capital in the Midwest.
Looking at issues of brain drain, community, and our city’s historical intersections between environment, industry, and technology, what we found is a quiet story of resilience that needs to be told across the United States.

-20%

Change in Toledo's population since 1980

16~18%

Percentage of college-educated individuals in Toledo (compared to NYC's 34.5% or Boston's 51%)

-7.6%

Change in Ohio's working-age population from 2010-2014

The Media Bubble
73% of our nation’s Internet publishing jobs are on the coasts—who is telling our story?
Internet Publishing & Broadcasting Industry Jobs, Lucas county, Politico.com
To cultivate OUR YOUNG PEOPLE


Midstory hosts two creative storytelling programs, the High School ThinkLab and the College Internship, bringing in students from all over the nation to think and create for our community.

To cultivate OUR VOICE


We have published over 150 multimedia stories, reached over 100,000 people with single social media posts, cultivated readership all over Ohio and nationwide in California, New Jersey, New York City, Boston & beyond, and initiated work on large-scale solutions-oriented projects, drawing in local & national researchers to work on nationally-relevant issues facing our community.

What Now?
In its first full year in operation, Midstory ran successful programming and increased its media reach substantially through meaningful content and outreach. Read our 2019 Annual Report and check out our Press Room to read more.
To help support our mission, consider giving back through making a tax-deductible donation, purchasing an original, limited-edition graphic tee or simply spreading the word. For more ways to get involved, click here.
Mid – in between, an intersection
Midst – among, within the crowd
Middle – in media res, in the middle of the action, neither beginning nor end
Middle America – the midwest, the overlooked story – a narrative, a life, a voice
Coming Home
Given the political state of our divided nation, more people are remembering and redefining the meaning of “home.” Inspired by the crisis and subsequent awakening of our hometown, Toledo, Ohio, core members of our organization became passionate for the future of Middle America, and increasingly uneasy about the empty stereotypes of the Midwest as “flyover country” devoid of culture. Though we left our hometowns to develop our academic careers and professional futures on the East Coast, our experiences—in literature and the arts, policy, design, science and technology—ultimately helped us appreciate our hometowns with new, returning light. Together, we believe that our contribution to our home will be far more meaningful than our investments elsewhere. The group is located in Toledo, Ohio as our home base, but aims to encompass all those hopeful individuals who have relocated back to home, and to take the city on as our inspiration, subject, and project.

The Midstorians

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Samuel Chang

Samuel Chang has a B.A. in Public and International Affairs from the Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School and a certificate from the Department of East Asian Studies.

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Samuel previously managed a non-profit organization in Massachusetts and Connecticut that provides educational services and support to incarcerated peoples. His interest on the intersection of culture, media, and policy led him to intern at the Center for American Progress, where his video and graphic work has been published. Samuel also works as a freelance videographer.

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Logan Sander

Logan Sander has a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University with a certificate in Chinese Language and Culture.

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She served as the president of the Princeton University Press Club and her freelance work has been published in various journals and newspapers including TIME.com, the Forward, and the Toledo Free Press. Her interests in theatre and the arts have led her to work with acclaimed Irish actress Lisa Dwan and Irish Times writer and literary critic Fintan O’Toole on a production of Samuel Beckett’s Ill Seen Ill Said.

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Ruth Chang

Ruth Chang has a B.A. in Architecture from Princeton University and a M.Arch from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

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Ruth previously worked as a designer at a Boston-based architecture and planning firm focused on community-centered and affordable housing solutions. She has also diverse experience and design work in Taipei, Shanghai, and Paris. With her interests in landscapes and interpretive histories, she dedicated her graduate thesis to the origin story of Toledo, uncovering the Great Black Swamp and its connection to the modern human condition.

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Alex Lim

Alex Lim has a B.S. in Biological Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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He has 3 years of research experience at different labs at MIT. He has also been involved with the construction project of a controlled-environment agriculture device— a Personal Food Computer for student classroom learning and engagement. Alex currently works in an assay development position at NeuMoDx, a molecular diagnostic company that provides medium to high-throughput RT-PCR systems for detecting and testing samples for various infectious diseases.

Anna DiAsio

Data Analyst

Bowling Green State University

Anna DiAsio has a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Toledo and a M.S. in Applied Statistics from Bowling Green State University. Born and raised in the Midwest, she has a steadfast love for this region and its people. Having dug her roots in Northwest Ohio, she seeks to be a bridge between the world of numbers and humanitarian work, doubly preserving the stories hidden in the data and shining light on untold stories with analytical insight.

Yitong Jiang

Data & GIS Specialist

Yitong Jiang has a Ph.D. in Spatial and Earth Sciences from Indiana State University. She’s currently a researcher at the University of Toledo. Her research focuses on the application of remote sensing and GIS on land surface temperature and moisture data. Her recent work has her involved with GLOBE Mission Earth, a collaboration between multiple institutions and NASA to build systemic innovation in STEM education.

Caixia Cui

Data Researcher

Caixia Cui has a Ph.D. in Educational Research and Measurement from the University of Toledo and a M.A. in Curriculum and Teaching from Bowling Green State University. Her graduate research was focused on the area of college student engagement & success and diversity & inclusion. She also has experience in survey development and analysis.

Mingyang Liu

Data Researcher

Mingyang Liu currently works as survey statistician in the Office of Institutional Research, University of Toledo. His work is focused on student success initiatives and data reporting for institutional decision-making and strategic planning. He received his PhD in educational research and measurement from the University of Toledo.

Jason Mecchi

Writing Fellow

Bowling Green State University

Jason is currently enrolled in the Popular Culture Studies Master’s program at Bowling Green State University, where he also received his B.A. in English. Born and raised in Maryland, he has spent the last ten years calling the Toledo area home. He is interested in looking at film, entertainment, and culture from the perspective of the Midwest through his writing and multimedia work. His passions also include literature and dog ownership.

Bonus fact: Jason was previously a college intern for Midstory in the summer of 2019.

Yinuo Zhang

Economics Fellow

Princeton University

Yinuo is a graduate student in economics at Princeton University. Even though she has never been adept at chores, she is building models to quantify the effect of outsourcing of home productions on the labor market. Outside of her research, she has a particular interest in literature from Hong Kong and Taiwan. She did her undergraduate in math and economics at the University of Rochester. Before that, she was born and raised in Beijing, China.

Bonus fact: She also enjoys nature and people-watching.

Sarah Gao

Science Fellow

University of San Francisco

Sarah is a MS in Biology student at the University of San Francisco studying the effects of climate change exacerbated moisture stress on soil microbes and their processes. She's fascinated by the complex ecological systems that link tiny microbes to the towering plants and animals they share this planet with. More broadly, she is interested in engaging everyday people in science communication and bridging the gaps between scientific research, policymaking and the broader public.

Bonus fact: She has worked as a digital designer for the past six years and still enjoys life in San Francisco as an artist, activist and cat-mom.

Haina Wang

Writing Fellow

Princeton University

Haina is a PhD candidate in Chemistry at Princeton University. Her research focuses on designing intermolecular forces so that molecules work together to achieve our desired material properties. Since her undergraduate years in Singapore, she has been doodling cartoons characters of molecules and blogging about science. She has published a children's book on biochemistry The Magic of Muggle. Outside of lab, she enjoys knitting and jewelry design with polymer clay, and she is an avid fan of Franz Schubert's music.

Bonus fact: She has published a children's book on biochemistry The Magic of Muggle.

Jessica Susser

Ecology Fellow

Jessica received her M.S. in Ecology from the University of Toledo. Jessica is a New York state native who has embraced Northwest Ohio as her home.

Bonus Fact: Jessica spends her free time exploring the parks of the Greater Toledo Area and making chili and casseroles for her friends and extended family.

Elizabeth Vanderau

Editorial Fellow & Intern Coordinator

Northwestern University

Liz is an MSJ candidate at Northwestern University, specializing in audio and video production. She received a B.A. in English with minors in Journalism and Art History from Boston University in 2017. After graduating, she worked in computational linguistics and immigration law before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. She is currently based out of Chicago and has enjoyed exploring the Midwest.

Bonus fact: In her free time, she loves to travel, hike and spend time with her dog, Lando.

Sophia Diodati

Design Fellow

Princeton University

Sophia is from Warren, RI, a small town in a small state whose unofficial slogan is “Keep Warren Weird.” She is going into her second-year as a Professional Master of Architecture student at Princeton University School of Architecture and she holds a B.A. in Medicine, Science, & Humanities and Anthropology (with a minor in Theater Arts and Studies) from Johns Hopkins University. She is interested in surveillance, identity and spatial politics as they materialize through architecture and the built environment and she hopes to continue exploring the intersection of space, time, and (re)memory. If she’s not listening to music, singing, or playing an instrument, she's probably planning an entire trip solely around going to see a concert.

This summer, she is most excited about finding connection with the Midwest and exploring different avenues of artistic representation and storytelling with Midstory.

Bonus fact: Despite being 5'2, she threw discus and hammer during her time as a student-athlete in undergrad (but don't worry, she still found time to do the musicals too)

Olivia Evans

Editorial Fellow

Northwestern University

Olivia is a native of Chicago, and with strong ties to central Arkansas, she recently received a B.S.J. from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

She is currently working as an Editorial Fellow for Midstory while completing her MSJ this summer. Olivia is interested in writing about culture, fashion, entertainment and wellness – and is eager to explore those topics through a Midwestern lens.

Bonus fact: In her free time, Olivia enjoys running, cooking and reading.

Maya Shimizu Harris

Design Fellow

University of California, Los Angeles

Maya is a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles majoring in History and minoring in Arabic and Japanese. She is particularly interested in science history and has worked with professors on various research projects in this area. Outside of academics, Maya enjoys backpacking, playing the cello, reading books, learning how to cook new dishes and taking care of her house plants.

Bonus Fact: Maya shares the same birthday as her older brother (if adjusted for the time difference between Sonoma, California and Tokyo, Japan, where they were born, respectively).

Julia Conti

Writing Fellow

Carnegie Mellon University

Julia Conti received a B.A. in Professional Writing and an additional major in Hispanic Studies from Carnegie Mellon University in May 2021. She has a particular interest in immigration, disability studies, and the education system, studying the ways in which these intersect and impact lives. She cares deeply about furthering language access and communication within her community. Outside of her research interests, Julia enjoys reading books, taking care of plants, and working on crochet projects. She was part of the Summer 2019 internship cohort. In the 2022-2023 school year, Julia is currently an English teaching assistant in Colombia as a part of the Fulbright Scholars Program.

José Pablo Fernández García

Writing Fellow

Princeton University

José Pablo is a third-year student at Princeton University and recently joined the Department of French & Italian with interests in politics, history, theater & communications. Outside the classroom, he is an associate editor for The Prospect, the arts and culture section of The Daily Princetonian, and is also a member of the Princeton Triangle Club, which produces original, student-written musical comedies every year. Based in the Midwest just like Midstory, José Pablo has lived right outside Cincinnati, Ohio since he was 4 years old.

Stefan Binion

Writing Fellow

University of Chicago

Stefan Binion has spent most of his life in the Great Lakes rustbelt. He was born in Cleveland, grew up in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, and studied anthropology at the University of Chicago. After college, he spent a year teaching English in Hunan province, China. These days, Stefan’s main research interests are infrastructure, transportation and human-technology entanglements.

Anthony Shu

Writing Fellow

Princeton University

Anthony Shu has a B.A. in Sociology from Princeton University with a certificate in African American Studies. Anthony focuses on the intersections of food and inequality, currently managing advertising and digital media projects at Second Harvest Food Bank. He has cooked on the line in San Francisco and explored Asian American experiences through food writing on his personal site, General Shu's. During his academic work, Anthony deciphered restaurants and pavilions at the World Expo to examine how countries gain culinary prestige.

Delaney Murray

Writing Fellow

Ohio University

Delaney is currently pursuing her Master’s of Science in Journalism at Ohio University, and she also holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Journalism and a Certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Ohio University. She was part of the Midstory Summer 2020 internship cohort.

2021 Summer Program Interns

2020 Summer Program Interns

2019 Summer Program Interns

Fall/Winter/Spring Program Interns

Demi Fang

Massachusetts

Demi Fang has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Princeton University with a certificate in Musical Performance (violin). She is currently a master’s candidate in Building Technology at MIT’s Department of Architecture. While at Princeton, Demi led Princeton’s Classical Music Hour in the spirit of making classical music accessible to wider audiences. She actively participated in chamber music and orchestra throughout college, spending a semester abroad studying at the Royal College of Music in London. Her research interests include timber structures and, more broadly, the intersection of architecture and engineering with the motivation of improving sustainability in modern construction. Outside of her academic work, she is currently interested in visual narratives for relating time, space, and the self.

Jennifer Foulon

New York

Jennifer Foulon has a B.A. in Economics from Princeton University with a certificate in Finance. She currently works as a senior data associate at CB Insights, a New York-based technology company that tracks and analyzes private market deals. In the past, she worked on a novel with Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell, legal projects at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and financial risk analyses at Kiski Group. She is also an accomplished dressage rider, having competed at the North American Junior/Young Rider Championships and the United States Festival of Champions.

Yuriko Inaba

New York

Yuriko Inaba has a B.S.E. in Financial Engineering from Princeton University. She currently works at Rent the Runway as a software engineer and loves bringing affordable fashion to all. Yuriko spends her free time as a competitive synchronized ice skater, a passion she developed at Princeton.

Alana Jaskir

Rhode Island

Alana Jaskir has a B.A. in Computer Science from Princeton University with a certificate in Cognitive Science. During university, she was a member of the student theatre community and volunteered with Community House Big Sibs, a mentorship program for elementary school students aimed at closing Princeton's minority achievement gap. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Ukraine, she co-organized a community project based on Technovation, an international competition that equips young girls with coding skills to address problems in their local communities. She currently is pursuing her PhD in Cognitive Science at Brown University, where she researches computational models of human learning and decision-making.

Lawrence Liu

California / Connecticut

Lawrence Liu has a M.A. in Jurisprudence and Social Policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. in Public & International Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. He is currently a J.D. student at Yale Law School, and is also concurrently pursuing a Ph.D. in Jurisprudence and Social Policy at UC Berkeley. Lawrence’s interests lie at the intersection of law, political science, and sociology, and his research examines the development of law and legal institutions in contemporary China. Lawrence also has experience working at the U.S. Department of State, the Vera Institute of Justice, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Outside of his academic work, he enjoys classical music, traveling, playing softball, and all things Dallas sports.

Alexandria (Lexie) Mann

Toledo

Alexandria (Lexie) Mann is a sophomore at the University of Toledo studying Health Care Administration with a pre-medical concentration. At UT, she involved in a research project with the College of Pharmacy, Chi Omega Fraternity and RockeTHON, the University of Toledo’s Dance Marathon.

Samuel Chang (President)

Alex Lim (Secretary)

Lauren Uhrman (Treasurer)

Lauren Uhrman earned her BS in Nursing and MS in Nursing at the University of Toledo. She also acquired a post-masters certificate as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at the University of Toledo. She has spent the last 10.5 years working for the Toledo based health organization, ProMedica, with the last 10 years being at Toledo Children’s Hospital. As a healthcare professional, she is very much interested in the holistic health of those around here and of the city as a whole.

She is co-founder of the University of Toledo student organization, Juice House, which aims to provide a vital and positive outlook and ecology for not only UT students and faculty, but the community as a whole, through education and peer to peer engagement. She is also a graduate of eCornell’s Plant Based Nutrition course and is currently working on starting her own clinic, PlantMedica.

Mingyang Liu

Mingyang Liu currently works as survey statistician in the Office of Institutional Research, University of Toledo. His work is focused on student success initiatives and data reporting for institutional decision-making and strategic planning. He received his PhD in educational research and measurement from the University of Toledo.

James Repp

James Repp currently works as a manager of the fiscal department at the Lucas County Department of Job & Family Services. He has worked in a variety of fields, including mental health, administration, and social services. He received a degree in sociology from Indiana University.

Tiffany Richmond Wang

Tiffany Richmond Wang has a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition from Bowling Green State University and a M.A. in Literature from the University of Toledo. Her research areas include nineteenth century women's rhetoric and Victorian literature.

Keith Burwell

Keith Burwell is the President of Toledo Community Foundation, a position he has held since February 2004. At the Toledo Community Foundation, in addition to leading a staff of fifteen in their primary role of responsive grant maker, he has led his team in a variety of other civic roles such as educator, catalyst and convener on key community issues, making available his expertise and that of his professional staff to a wide range of community efforts. His Foundation team directs annual grant making and gifting in the region, making Toledo Community Foundation the largest philanthropic organization in northwest Ohio. Read more about Keith here.

Alex Catchings

Alex is the head of Alliance Small Engines, a division of Blossman Gas, the largest privately-owned propane company in the U.S. In 2009, he developed AltFuel, a company that manufactures and markets conversion systems for small gasoline utility engines, and patented a Gaseous Fuel Delivery System in 2018. A dedicated caregiver to his grandfather who suffers from Alzheimer’s, Alex is a founding member and Vice President of the Memory Lane Care Services Board, which focuses on respite care for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. He also served as the Secretary of the Board of Directors and the Chair of the Governance Committee for the Northwest Ohio Alzheimer’s Association. In addition, Alex serves on the boards of several start-up companies to provide business creation and development consultation.

Tony Chang

Tony Chang is the mastermind behind Midstory and the Toledo Water Project. He brings along many years of experience and expertise working in the field. His vision and unique perspective leads the direction of the organization and paves way to a larger, more creative imagining of the city and the region.

Mike Hart

Mike Hart is the president and CEO of HART, Inc. Mike has worked for Hart, Inc. for over 35 years, after his father Tom—a tremendously respected Toledo adman—founded the company in 1965. Read more here.

Lisa G. Hawker

With over 20 years of experience in employee benefits and a strong record of achievement, Lisa is responsible for the overall growth, retention, profitability, best practices, and strategic direction of the firm’s $42 million employee benefits operation, spanning 14 offices throughout the Midwest and South.

As a nationally recognized speaker on employee benefits and healthcare reform, Lisa has presented to numerous organizations, including Financial Executives International (FEI), the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and the Worldwide Employee Benefits Network. She is often interviewed to provide her insights on the current landscape of the U.S. healthcare system.

Bob Howell

Bob Howell is the Former Chief Executive Office, President of SSOE. Bob began his career with SSOE in 1980. During his tenure, he worked his way up from a draftsman trainee through draftsman, designer, senior designer, and project manager. Read more about Bob here.

Betsy Hurner

Betsy Hurner is the Director of Marketing & Public Relations at SSOE. Betsy has nearly 20 years of experience marketing the architecture, engineering, and construction management industry. Betsy joined SSOE as a student intern in 2000. Graduating from the University of Toledo in 2001, she has served in various positions, rising through the ranks of the marketing department to become Director of Marketing in 2015. Read more about Betsy here.

Keith Instone

Keith Instone is a user experience consultant, using human-centered design to create business value. He also contributes his human-centered design expertise to regional economic development, urban planning, and entrepreneurial ecosystem strategies. His liberal arts-based Bachelor’s of Arts and Master’s of Science degrees in Computer Science from BGSU have been the foundation of a 30-year career in user experience.

Paul Toth

Paul was the CEO and President of the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority. During his more than 30 years with the Port Authority (since 1988), he also served as the director of the Toledo Express Airport before becoming President of the Port Authority in 2009. He retired in the fall of 2019.