Network for Enriched Academic Relationships (NEAR)

The Network for Enriched Academic Relationships, guiding students to success.

The Network for Enriched Academic Relationships (NEAR) is a UB-wide interdisciplinary mentoring network for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Through NEAR, students can find mentors regarding issues that lie beyond coursework, comps and dissertations. Our hope is that by connecting with mentors who have experience navigating obstacles (e.g., systemic bias, personal hardship) or who can be effective allies, more students and postdoctoral scholars will feel supported and emboldened in their own careers.

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.

How it Works

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

NEAR Faculty Director

Dr. Annahita Ball is an associate professor in the School of Social Work. Her research focuses on educational justice, leveraging school-family-community resources to improve education for all children and youth. Her teaching interests are diversity and oppression, social work services in schools, human behavior and policy.

She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers, Society for Social Work and Research, and Council on Social Work Education. Ball conducts research in partnership with schools and community agencies.

Anna became the faculty director of NEAR in 2022. Her work, teaching and mentoring, emphasizing equity, inclusion and a whole-person approach to graduate student success, provides NEAR with new insights and strategies to support mentors and students. Her leadership plays a critical role in supporting graduate students as they navigate the academic and personal accomplishments and challenges of graduate school.

Want to be a mentor?

Are you a UB faculty or staff member who would like to participate in the NEAR program? Register to be a NEAR mentor now.

If you are a mentor and would like to edit or remove your profile, submit a NEAR Directory Content Change Request. If you have questions, please contact