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21st Century Scholars Program

The 21st Century Scholars Program promotes ongoing awareness of workforce diversity in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) extramural research program. Sponsored by the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD) Office, the 21st Century Scholars Program builds a self-reinforcing culture of mentoring and support at NIH.

Defining Characteristics

  • Delivers a 6-month program with distinct levels of engagement: cohort and personal mentoring
  • Establishes learning pathways that have both theoretical and praxis components
  • Addresses all three current COSWD principles: Build the evidence, Disseminate the evidence, Act on the evidence
  • Provides broad, hands-on experience to work collaboratively with common NIH processes (e.g., planning workshops, crafting a Funding Opportunity Announcement [FOA], etc.)
  • Contributes to ongoing COSWD Office diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives

Program Advisory Committee

The 21st Century Scholars Program Advisory Committee includes representatives from the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Office of Human Resources, Diversity Catalysts and Employee Resource Groups. The committee meets regularly to inform program components, eligibility/selection requirements, and evaluation.

Components of the Program

  • Foster Cohort Engagement. Monthly Journal Club discussions. Participants expected to lead discussions on selected articles
  • Build Mentoring Pods. Monthly meetings to discuss Journal Club assignments, implications for professional and personal growth, and more
  • Reduce Isolation and Build Community. Team events, connections with Employee Resource Groups, other COSWD Office outreach activities
  • Enhance Work Skills. The COSWD Challenge: A team activity focusing on developing proposals for projects (e.g., FOAs, workshops, other meetings or collaborations, etc.) that support the COSWD Office mission

Participant Eligibility

  • Hired in the NIH extramural research program within the past 3 years
  • Hold a Ph.D., M.D., or equivalent
  • Have a position in the NIH extramural research program below that of Institute/Center/Division Director
  • Limit of 15 participants per program cohort


  • Training/skills targeted at scientific workforce diversity issues
  • Personal mentoring
  • Financial support to attend meetings or enhance personal development
  • Integration into the NIH-wide DEIA network and exposure to other networks
  • Recognition throughout NIH for knowledge and commitment to advancing scientific workforce diversity

Apply as a participant  Exit Link Disclaimer

Mentor Eligibility

  • Seasoned, experienced NIH scientific extramural staff
  • Five mentors will be chosen for the initial program cohort
  • Mentors will devote at least 2 hours per month to program activities


  • Monthly meetings with an assigned pod of 3 participants exploring themes and real-life challenges to workforce diversity
  • Sharing of practical skills with mentees, such as negotiating formal and informal networks necessary to advance within extramural spaces
  • Financial support to attend meetings or enhance personal development
  • Recognition throughout NIH for willingness and ability to help build a larger community around scientific workforce diversity

Apply as a mentor  Exit Link Disclaimer

Questions? Please send a message to Please note that the application deadline for both participants and mentors is Friday, January 28, 2022.


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