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Bilingual student publication celebrates twenty years

By Meredith Dault, Senior Communications Officer

 Laureen Hu is Executive Director of The Empress (photo by Yiyu Jiang)

Anyone looking for Laureen Hu these days should start by checking University Archives. That’s where the second year commerce student has been spending most of her spare time, hunkered down with back issues of The Empress, Queen’s University’s only bilingual student publication.

Ms. Hu (Com’16) and her team are preparing for a special 20th anniversary edition of the Chinese-English publication that first hit campus two decades ago. In preparation, she has been combing back issues in a bid to learn more about what was on the minds of the students who once created the publication she currently oversees.

“When they started The Empress in 1994, they really wanted to appeal to new immigrants,” says Ms. Hu, who moved to Calgary from China when she was a teenager. “Back then, most of the immigrants arriving in Kingston and at Queen’s were from Hong Kong. It was a very small population. So they came up with this idea to create a publication that would act as a bridge on campus, allowing Canadian students to better understand Chinese culture, and helping Chinese students to be more immersed into the mainstream.”

 Editor-in-Chief Jane Shui (photo by Yiyu Jiang)

First published in English and traditional Chinese, the standard characters used in Hong Kong, The Empress moved into publishing in simplified Chinese as more students from mainland China began arriving at Queen’s in the mid 2000s. “The Chinese economy started to bloom and more Chinese parents began sending their children to Canada for a better education,” says Ms. Hu. In 2010, the publication took on the name Queen’s Chinese Press to reflect the cultural change.

Ms. Hu changed the publication’s name back to The Empress when she took the reigns in September, in hopes that it might be more appealing to a broader and more diverse audience. She says that while most contributors are bilingual, it is not a pre-requisite for participation. “We can always have translators available,” says Ms. Hu.

For the 20th anniversary edition, Ms. Hu says the team hopes to showcase twenty years worth of stories pulled from previous editions, as well as to re-implement some writing in traditional (versus simplified) Chinese characters. “We want to know what mattered to students back then,” she says. “From what they thought about Hong Kong being returned to China in 1997, to their reaction to 9/11 and other remarkable events around the world.”

Ms. Hu, who hopes to specialize in accounting and finance, says her involvement with The Empress has also allowed her to learn a lot about Queen’s, and even more about business. “There is nothing more practical than this magazine,” she laughs. “I have been able to apply all my business skills, from marketing to presentation skills.”

But she says the best part of being involved with The Empress has been being connected to something greater than herself at Queen’s.

“I hope I can pass on the spirit of The Empress to the next generation of students,” she says. “Hopefully one day someone will pick up all our articles and be blown away by the devotion that past members brought to the publication.”

The 20th anniversary edition of The Empress is now available online and in print. 

The 2013-2014 Empress Team (photo by Yiyu Jiang)