Visiting Scholars Program

Visiting Scholars House Photo Gallery

About the Program

This program is meant to provide time and space for intensive collaborative work between Visiting Scholars, MLI staff, and the local academic community. Possible projects to be undertaken while in residence include, but are not limited to: writing, curriculum development, non-laboratory research, and/or development of introspective and contemplative methodologies. We also view this as an opportunity for senior members of the larger MLI community to interact with promising young scholars, thereby extending and broadening our collective efforts. It is our hope that participation in this program will culminate in outcomes that communicate and promote the intellectual fruits of work at MLI, such as journal articles, theses, book chapters, books, or formal meetings on an MLI theme.

We will consider applications on a broad range of contemplative-related research proposals, but will give preference to those that closely align with our initiatives in Ethics, Education, and Human Development; Mapping the Mind; and Craving, Desire, and Addiction.

We will be able to provide working space for up to seven Visiting Scholars at a time. Scholars will have access to the libraries of the Five Colleges (Amherst College, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst) and other resources at Amherst College. In addition, regularly scheduled journal clubs and peer-led seminars will offer scholars opportunities for informal dialogue across disciplines.


How to Apply

We will accept applications from two tiers of applicants: Junior Scholars and Senior Scholars.

Junior Scholars are strong undergraduates, graduate students in a PhD program, recent post-docs, or junior faculty in the first three years of their appointments. Senior Scholars are more established academic faculty or professional scholars. We are pleased to offer limited financial reimbursements to Junior Scholars as a way to help reduce the burden of travel, housing and living expenses. As this program is still in its infancy, we ask that Senior Scholars provide the bulk of their own financial support (e.g., via faculty sabbatical leave or their own grant support).

Applications will be reviewed within 4 weeks of the application deadline, and finalists will be asked to conduct an interview in-person or via Skype. Generally, in selecting Visiting Scholars, we will seek excellence while maintaining a balance with respect to age, race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, geographic base, contemplative tradition, and between scholars, scientists, and contemplatives. We will show a preference for projects or research designs that exemplify strong integration of first-person experiential knowledge and inquiry with second-person intersubjective modes of inquiry and third-person observational and analytic methods.

Trimesters and Application Deadlines

The Visiting Scholars Program is structured on a trimester system; deadlines are below. Scholars wishing to apply for a future semester are encouraged to do so, indicating the relevant dates on their application.

  • Fall (August 15 – December 31), Application deadline: May 1
  • Spring (January 1 – May 15), Application deadline: September 30
  • Summer (May 15 – August 15), Application deadline: January 15

Application Requirements

Scholars, scientists and contemplatives wishing to apply as a Visiting Scholar should apply through the online application by the deadline corresponding to the session containing the start date of proposed residence:

  • CV
  • Short bio (150 words max)
  • Summary of proposed research project (150 words max)
  • Proposal for research project (2-3 pages), including:
    • Project title
    • Specific planned activities and potential outcomes (e.g., manuscript, research proposal, method development, new course, etc)
    • Explanation of how this relates to Mind and Life’s mission and/or research initiatives
    • Requested start date and length of residency (we require a minimum stay of 6 weeks for Junior Scholars)

Additionally, for Junior Scholars:

  • Two letters of recommendation from colleagues who can speak to your academic background and ability to accomplish proposed goals
  • Optional: scholarship request describing any financial needs (Junior Scholars are eligible for reimbursements not to exceed $2,000 per month for expenses)

Please Note

  • Applicants should be capable of self-directed research, as this is an independent-study program with limited staff assistance.
  • We are unable to offer either administrative assistance or living assistance beyond the provided welcome packet containing suggestions and tips. All scholars are responsible for securing their own housing.
  • While we welcome international scholars to apply, Mind and Life cannot assist in the processing of work visas at this time.

Click here to access the online application form

Our Initiatives

Please click here for further details about our initiatives. Examples of relevant research questions that could be undertaken as a Visiting Scholar include, but are not limited to:

Ethics, Education, and Human Development

  • How does engagement in contemplative practice translate to moral reasoning and/or moral behavior?
  • How can we scientifically measure human qualities such as empathy, kindness, and compassion?
  • What are the forces in public education working against the cultivation of compassion in students?
  • How can teacher development programs better train teachers in compassion?
  • How is compassion cultivated differently in infants, children, adolescents, and young adults?
  • What are “secular ethics,” as used by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Beyond Religion (2011)?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs?
  • Does compassion training offer any improvements over SEL or Character Education programs?

Mapping the Mind

  • What does it mean to “map the mind”? How does this differ from mapping the brain?
  • How can neuroscientists and contemplative scholars collaborate to develop better mental maps?
  • What are some problems encountered when one generalizes mental maps across cultures?
  • What kinds of mental maps are already offered by the world’s contemplative traditions?
  • What are the different roles played by science, religion, and the humanities in mind mapping?
  • What is the relationship between first-, second-, and third-person methods in scientific inquiry?
  • Can better maps of the mind lead to more human flourishing? How do we define human flourishing?

Craving, Desire, and Addiction

  • How does craving or attachment act as a hindrance to human flourishing and compassion?
  • What are the biological underpinnings of craving, and how can we study this by incorporating a first-person perspective?
  • What is the relationship, experientially and neurally, between reward, craving, and habit formation?
  • What is the role of “self” in the experience of craving and desire?
  • Is there such a thing as healthy desire? How can we examine the dual aspects of desire – both as a source of suffering, and as an aspiration or fuel for transformation?
  • How might contemplative approaches be used to address or ameliorate craving and addiction?

Questions about the Visiting Scholars program may also be sent to

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