For Ed Taylor, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs at the University of Washington, being of service is not just an add on to a distinguished academic career but is integral to what constitutes a meaningful life. For over three decades, he has performed dozens of volunteer roles as a dedicated board member and advisor to local and national nonprofits and educational institutions. In recognition of the breadth and depth of his service to Mind & Life, Ed was recently honored with the 2022 Mind & Life Institute Service Award.
“We deeply appreciate the generous and steadfast service Ed has given to Mind & Life over many years,” said President Susan Bauer-Wu. “Ed truly embodies our core values of compassion, integrity, inclusion, curiosity, and excellence in everything he does and how he does it. We are forever grateful for his wisdom, guidance, and warmth as a colleague, who makes all feel welcome and valued in his presence.”
Ed credits his engagement with Mind & Life—now spanning 15 years—with enriching his understanding of ancient wisdom traditions, the value of cross-disciplinary dialogue, and the tenets of ethical leadership. At the heart of this journey has been a growing appreciation of the role of mindfulness and compassion in addressing some of humanity’s greatest challenges.
He first started meditating as an undergraduate studying Eastern philosophy and religion at Gonzaga University. “As a young person, so much of my health and wellness depended on my coping skills and learning to live with the stress of a life lived in poverty and experiencing the racial challenges in our country,” he says. “Practicing mindfulness was good for the well-being of my head, heart, and soul.” After graduating, he became a therapist, using mindfulness in clinical treatments with patients.
Ed later went on to earn a PhD in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Washington, where he has served on faculty since 1995, currently as Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and a professor in the College of Education. His research and teaching center on comparative education in the U.S. and South Africa, the moral dimensions of education and integrative education, and leadership in education and social justice. In 2015, he co-chaired the University’s Race and Equity Initiative.
Ed first joined Mind & Life’s Steering Council in 2018, and currently serves as Chair. The experience has been deeply meaningful, he shares, particularly given the cross-disciplinary relationships he enjoys with fellow members. Concurrently, Ed embraced the opportunity to serve as Co-Chair of the Program Planning Committee (PPC) for Mind & Life’s 2022 Summer Research Institute (SRI) on Othering, Belonging, and Becoming, and as a PPC member for SRI 2023 on Trauma, Resilience, and Flourishing. Contributing to both events offered him the opportunity to “engage in some of the most pressing issues in our world right now,” he says.
Ed’s journey with Mind & Life dates back to 2008, when he was invited by then President Arthur Zajonc to be part of a cross-disciplinary project aimed at re-imagining universities. From the experience, he co-authored Transformative Conversations: A Guide to Mentoring Communities Among Colleagues in Higher Education. He would later serve as faculty for the Academy for Contemplative Education and Leadership convened by Mind & Life in 2015.
Other touch points include what Ed calls “life changing” trips to Dharamsala, India for Mind & Life convenings with the Dalai Lama. In 2019, he attended the Mind & Life Conversation on Compassion, Interconnection, and Transformation, where South African social scientist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela shared her experience as a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the aftermath of apartheid, and scholarly focus on forgiveness and repair. “This brought me in touch with work that is very close to my heart,” says Ed, who worked with South African township schools and school leaders to help form a coalition of schools to serve children living in township communities. And in October 2022, he attended and co-led a participant ‘get to know you’ session at a Mind & Life Conversation between the Dalai Lama and leading scientists on Interdependence, Ethics, and Social Networks.
The theme of interconnection at the heart of Mind & Life’s work has “guided my own work and teaching,” says Ed. “These experiences have been core to who I am and how I live and walk in the world.” The ripple effect can also be traced to his tenure at the University of Washington, where mindfulness and compassion are now embedded in the University’s mission.
“What humbles me most is that I have gained so much more from my affiliation with Mind & Life than I have given,” said Ed upon learning of the award. Not surprisingly, he describes the movement from ego-centrism to eco-centrism as a guidepost on his leadership journey.
Learn more about Ed in this moving conversation with john a. powell, Director of the Othering and Belonging Institute, at Mind & Life’s 2022 Summer Research Institute.