Network for Enriched Academic Relationships (NEAR)

NEAR is an online mentoring directory founded by Laina Y. Bay-Cheng, that students can use to find faculty mentors and allies beyond their substantive research areas. Students are able to connect with current faculty members to receive guidance and support around topics and issues of importance (including, but not limited to, minority status experiences, personal life circumstances, questions about academia, etc.). These are issues that can have a significant bearing on the quality of graduate students' well-being, research and careers. NEAR is wholly committed to providing UB's graduate students with equal access to thoughtful and rich mentoring.

How it Works

  1. Interested faculty submit their information indicating issues they are willing to discuss with a student.
  2. Students search the NEAR directory below, to find faculty open to discussing a relevant issue.
  3. Students reach out to faculty with whom they would like to connect.
  4. The faculty member and student meet up however and whenever they wish.

Faculty Directory

About the Founding Director

Laina Y. Bay-Cheng is the associate dean for faculty development in the School of Social Work. Prior to this, she served for seven years as the PhD program director. Her scholarship examines the systemic roots of young women’s sexual vulnerability: interlocked gender, class, race and age-based inequalities and the ideologies that perpetuate them.

Mentoring is a throughline of Bay-Cheng’s teaching and service, whether working with individual students, on programmatic policies and structures, or through national organizations that shape doctoral education (e.g., the Board of Directors of the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work, the Society for Social Work Research Research Capacity Development Committee). She values mentoring as a means of intellectual and social progress insofar as it humanizes mentors and mentees alike, demystifies academic work and culture and diversifies the strengths and insights among us.

Bay-Cheng founded NEAR on the principle that creative and rigorous intellectual work requires not only expert guidance in a substantive area or methodological approach, but also meaningful support, especially when contending with systemic bias and marginalization or personal stressors and hardships.

If you have questions or if you are a faculty mentor and would like to edit or remove your profile, please contact