The Network for Enriched Academic Relationships (NEAR) is a UB-wide interdisciplinary mentoring network for graduate students. Through NEAR, students can find mentors regarding issues that lie beyond coursework, comps and dissertations. Our hope is that by connecting with faculty who have experience navigating obstacles (e.g., systemic bias, personal hardship) or who can be effective allies, more students—and more diverse students—will feel supported and emboldened in their own careers.
NEAR mentors want more than for students to survive graduate school, and we aim beyond the inclusion of diverse students on our campus. We believe caring and candid mentoring is crucial to widening the range of student scholars who thrive at UB and who will transform our intellectual communities.
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.