Engagement Lead at The Wellbeing Project
John has a long history with the Wellbeing Project. Back in 2017, he collaborated closely with the project to create the vision for what has now become the Higher Education Network and was personally transformed as a member of the first cohort while serving as a professor and Dean.
Once again, a lightning strike of creativity happened over coffee at Sigmund Freud’s summer villa in the Austrian Alps while participating in an inner work retreat. It was there where the Teacher Wellbeing Group was further incubated and soon thereafter Gasko was quickly dispatched to the WISE Summit in Qatar to meet up with Xymena Salado, Networks Senior Manager, and curate a workshop with education leaders from around the globe.
In the Fall of 2019, Dr. Gasko was appointed Chief Well-Being Officer at Uplift Education, one of the largest public education , charter school systems in the United States.
In 2016, Dr. Gasko was appointed Professor and Dean of Education at the University of North Texas and eventually Special Advisor to the President. While at UNT, Dr. Gasko built and launched thirdspace, one of the first mindfulness and well-being centers dedicated to supporting students, faculty, and leaders in higher education. Earlier in his career, Dr. Gasko served as the Director of Research and Public Policy for the Children’s Defense Fund, worked alongside physicians, neuroscientists, and psychologists as Associate Division Chief of Developmental Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and became CEO and Managing Director of the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute. Dr. Gasko has experienced firsthand how talented social changemakers are besieged, overwhelmed, stressed out, and who leave their professions at alarming rates. Striving evermore to understand why people on the front lines of helping others were “dropping out,” Gasko traveled the country and the globe to study with a variety of institutions, physicians, scientists, and wisdom teachers—including Harvard Medical School, the Chief of Primary Care at UChicago Medicine, Alex Lickerman, UMASS Medical School’s Jon Kabat-Zinn, Boston Trauma Center’s, Bessel Van Der Kolk, and Tibetan teacher, Pema Chodron. Gasko is one of the few people to attain a Black Belt “with distinction” in Jamie Wheal’s Flow Genome Project system, which is featured in the NYT’s best-selling book, Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.
He has trained in expedition-based canyoneering in the rugged Utah-based desert system with Wheal and Curt Cronin, a former commander of Navy SEAL Team 6, and is extending this training to include back-country skiing and guiding in the Holy Cross Wilderness in the Pike San Isabel National Forest. Gasko is also a trained Emergency Medical Technician and Wilderness First Responder.
What does inner wellbeing mean to you?
From the Heart Sutra: “Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form…”
How would you define wellbeing in one word?
Are there any rituals or practices you use to enhance your wellbeing?
I have imperfectly experimented with Shikantaza or “Just Sitting” for almost 30 years and will receive Zen Jukai ordination in November, 2023.
Why is it important that we prioritize individual, organizational and societal wellbeing?
Because there’s nothing like feeling at home in your own body and mind, with colleagues at work, within our communities and in seamless relationship to nature.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or articles that you believe support, promote or educate on wellbeing and related themes?