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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. Mentors chosen for the program are seasoned, experienced NIH scientific extramural staff members who are committed to professional development.

Because the program is targeted towards newer NIH extramural scientific staff (in their extramural roles three years or fewer), selection as a 21st Century Scholars Program participant can be a precursor to NIH leadership training opportunities that are designed for those in later career stages, such as the Cement Extramural Leadership Institute (CELI).

Applications for the FY23 cohort of participants and mentors are now open. If you are interested in learning more about eligibility requirements, please click here.

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 or other projects to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility [DEIA], etc.)
  • Contributes to ongoing COSWD office 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, former 21st Century Scholars Program mentors, and Employee Resource Groups. The Advisory Committee meets regularly to inform program components, eligibility/selection requirements, and evaluation.

Components of the Program

  • Foster Cohort Engagement. Monthly Journal Club discussions where participants are 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. Building professional networks, connections with NIH offices, and other COSWD office outreach activities
  • Enhance Work Skills. The COSWD Challenge: A team-based activity focusing on developing proposals for projects (e.g., workshops, other meetings or collaborations, etc.) that could potentially support DEIA efforts broadly at NIH

Questions? Please contact the 21CSP Program Staff at

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