President's Award for
Outstanding Performance in Research Supervision

Professor John N. Erni

Fung Hon Chu Endowed Chair of Humanics
Head / Chair Professor in Humanities

Department of Humanities and Creative Writing

Faculty of Arts

Professor John N. Erni has brought to bear 28 years of teaching experience in the U.S. and Hong Kong in implementing and refining his tried and trusted approach to supervision of postgraduate students

The successful results of his approach speak eloquently for themselves: every student supervised by Professor Erni has begun to publish professionally; two of his students have risen to the rank of Assistant Professor within two years of completing their PhD; one student won the Sir Edward Youde Memorial Postgraduate Fellowship; one student won several design awards; one student won several literary criticism awards: and many of his students have made numerous media appearances.

Professor Erni has consistently demonstrated his enthusiasm for supporting his research postgraduates (RPGs) in their personal, professional and career development. He has been instrumental in initiating a series of measures and best practices in supervising his RPGs. They include the formation of a postgraduate affairs committee in his Department as a formal mechanism to develop excellence in research mentorship. In addition, he has introduced monthly group mini-seminars where his students share their research progress with one another, receive feedback from each other and from him, and build a system of bonding and mutual support.

Professor Erni instils in his students a daily writing habit to develop their ability to express their ideas sharply and coherently. Typically he asks them to write 500-800 words a day. Students have found pleasure in this practice with a sense of growing reward not only in terms of volume of writing but also depth and maturity. He also instituted an RPG Day in his Department as a forum for the orientation of new students, and for sharing and disseminating good practices.

Professor Erni’s advice and support continue well after his supervisees’ postgraduate studies, particularly as they increasingly experience anxiety over their future. Hence he writes reference letters for his supervisees’ job applications, offers part-time teaching opportunities in his Department, assists in publication planning, and shows students how to position their research so they can show a strong trajectory in their field of expertise.

Professor Erni’s RPGs have expressed their appreciation of his supervision in glowing terms. Among them, a student writes: “It is not exaggerating to say that Prof. John Erni is my role model, no matter regarding professional or personal aspects. When I meet a difficult situation, my first reaction is to imagine what Prof. Erni will do under such circumstances.”

Professor Erni has deservedly earned his huge reputation for his inspirational supervision of postgraduate students. His devotion to their academic, career and personal development shines brightly through, and the Selection Committee believes that Professor Erni is a truly worthy recipient of the President’s Award for Outstanding Performance in Research Supervision.