Students in the Spotlight : Catherine Lu

October 6, 2020 by School of Cities Staff

"Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Student Academy and Urban Leadership Fellowship program.

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  • What are you currently working on? What are your research and engagement interests? 

    It's summer, everyone's physically distanced, so I have no life outside of school. My student academy project is a fiction anthology titled: A Multiplicity of Stories. The website has all the information, but a summary is that I'm using prose fiction, short stories, as a medium to educate readers about unknown urban perspectives, much like ethnography. Storytelling is an exciting way to learn by example. There's a fictional character living in a fictional world, different magic or technology, made-up cultures, languages, physics, but at the end of the day it's relatable.

    You probably have a favourite movie, comic, video game--any old narrative. A favourite character. Someone who hates their job? You too? Be friends! By reading that story over and over!

    It's that investment into fictional worlds, and the consequences of those beliefs, that I'm interested in exploring and influencing.


  • What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make difference?
    I've always enjoyed reading fiction, and no surprise, a lot of other people do too. In fact, there's a whole market built on people making up stuff. Unbelievable, right? Beliefs... can be dangerous: One too many narratives glorifying war and fiction becomes fact, becomes future.
    I hope to make a difference by amplifying refreshingly different narratives of urban life into public awareness. We Need Diverse Books can probably explain it better but here's a free anthology (in October) that you'll enjoy reading. 

  • As a student, researcher and/or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact?
    From a narrative perspective, all this online doom scrolling has socially distanced— not physical but socially distanced people in feedback bubbles. There is no more friendly wave at the grocery checkout, there's just fear of the unknown.

    So, on social media you can see (if you search hard enough) stories of people dying of COVID-19, and simultaneously stories of fake cures.

    Feedback bubbles can be devastating. Using social media to pop social media bubbles is ironic. But all I have... is social media. I'm not sure if I'm reaching, as an activist, the people in need of a worldview pop.

  • Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student? 
    I very much enjoyed my experience as a Fellow at the School of Cities. Throughout the semester they facilitated opportunities to discuss and share my research ideas and offered valuable feedback along the way. The weekly meetings were something to look forward to, especially during the difficult and isolating months of the pandemic.


Student Bio:

Catherine is a third year undergrad student in Digital Humanities, Environmental Anthropology, and Book and Media Studies. She’s passionate about the harnessing the power of storytelling to change people’s lives, and critically thinks about stories she comes upon in daily life and the problematic narratives they reiterate. Catherine is also involved with The Varsity and various Toronto arts organizations. Her project nudges readers into becoming more empathetic decision makers while also entertaining them.