UB NEAR Initiative

Hey UB Graduate Students!

My name is Lisa Kulka, I am a graduate student in the Learning and Instruction Department in the Graduate School of Education.  I have been working with Dr. Laina Bay-Cheng on a student/faculty project that recently launched.  It’s called the UB Network for Enriched Academic Relationships (UB NEAR), and it’s essentially a network of faculty members from across many different departments at UB who volunteer their time to serve as mentors to graduate students.

Within my friends’ and my own graduate school experiences, there have definitely been challenges that we haven’t felt totally comfortable talking with our own advisors about.  I know that some of them were overwhelmed or couldn’t cope with their workloads, or were struggling with assimilation as international students, etc.  For me, since I’ll be the first in my family to earn a PhD, I’ve struggled with not knowing exactly how to navigate the culture of academia.  I think that there are a lot of graduate students who can sympathize, and it’s challenges like these that are commonly felt but not commonly talked about.  UB NEAR, in my opinion, can help alleviate this problem, because graduate students now have the opportunity to connect with a faculty member in any area, who can provide guidance and support based on the challenge a student is experiencing.  The UB NEAR faculty members are genuinely looking to help graduate students be successful in and outside of the classroom.  You can choose one or more faculty members to talk with, and it doesn’t have to be on a frequent basis, you both can decide what works for you.

I really recommend taking advantage of this, not only because the UB NEAR mentors are great, but because mentorship can have a marked impact on your life path.  I was drawn to this opportunity because mentors have had such a positive effect on my own life and the career choices I made, and I may not have even gone to graduate school if it weren’t for them.  I’m reaching out to you today because the second half of the spring semester is well underway, and it’s a stressful time for us.  If you are graduating, not sure about continuing your program, or if you just feel like you would benefit from mentorship, I truly believe that this resource can be of help to you!

If you’re interested, I encourage you to check out the directory at http://www.social-work.buffalo.edu/ubnear/ , where you can look through the faculty mentors’ profiles and see what interest areas they prefer to talk with students about.  If you have already used the site, and have met with a mentor already/would like to provide feedback, please reach out to us via email at sw-ubnear@buffalo.edu.

I’m also excited to announce that during your first mentor meet-up, coffee will be provided free of charge to you and your faculty mentor, courtesy of Starbucks!  To claim the credit, please email sw-ubnear@buffalo.edu to say which faculty member you are meeting and when.

Please feel free to email us with any questions, and I hope you connect with us!


Lisa Kulka