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Media Tip Sheet: Bucknell’s December Story Ideas

LEWISBURG, Pa. — These are Bucknell University story ideas that may interest you in December.

SANTA’S START — The Christmas season finds images of Santa Claus all around. Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist, first created the iconic image of Santa Claus in 1863 with an illustration on the cover of Harper’s Weekly. Professor Paul Barba, history, explains that at the time of that illustration, Nast played a role in convincing White Northern audiences of the merits of emancipation — working as Abraham Lincoln’s visual propagandist through his cartoons. “Nast is a fascinating historical figure — both in terms of his changing political views and his contemporary (Civil War era) lure,” says Barba. “His Santa Claus cartoons were hardly apolitical. It should be noted that his first Santa Claus cartoon from 1863 was an image of Santa Claus distributing presents to children in a Union camp. The implicit message was that Union soldiers were fighting to preserve this simple, middle-class way of life.” Barba points out that Nast had an apparent love for a Victorian era ideal of family, always emphasizing children and the home in his cartoons. “He fused sentimental middle-class imagery with an adoration of children and an embrace for consumer culture,” he says. Ironically, Nast’s familial sentimentalism was contrasted by his frequent use of violent imagery, according to Barba, who recently authored his first book, Country of the Cursed and the Driven: Slavery and the Texas Borderlands (Nebraska, 2021). The book won two awards from the Western History Association. CONTACT: Barba, 570-577-3804,

DATA IS PERSONAL — Computer Science Education Week begins Dec. 5 and at Bucknell, students can get a computer science degree from either the College of Engineering or the College of Arts & Sciences. Engineering Professor Evan Peck both teaches and incorporates students into his research on human-computer interaction and information visualization. That encompasses the growing field of artificial intelligence, and Peck recently teamed up with fellow Bucknell Professor Darakhshan Mir, computer science, and a Williams College co-author on a chapter entitled “Integrating AI Ethics Across the Computing Curriculum,” for a forthcoming book, The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in Education: Practices, Challenges, and Debates by Routledge. A few years ago, Peck and his Bucknell students conducted a research project in rural central Pennsylvania looking at data visualization and why some people pay attention to data, why others don’t. They found that people repeatedly cited personal experience in order to rationalize their ranking decisions, and the stories they told the researchers were often intimate. “We found that the personal matters. And while we tend to analyze visualizations in isolated, well-controlled environments, our platforms matter too,” says Peck, who teaches data visualization. CONTACT: 570-577-2345,

A STRONG FINANCIAL FINISH — It may be December, but you can still make a strong financial finish this year according to two Freeman College of Management professors. First, Professor Stacy Mastrolia, accounting, advises people to consider their options if they still have open enrollment for their benefits. “Think of insurance as paying to transfer financial risk to the insurance company for events or circumstances that you can’t afford to pay for or that would bankrupt your family,” she says. “Because you have to pay for insurance, an important part of your financial plan should be not purchasing insurance you don’t need.” Since holiday costs are higher, Mastrolia says the holiday budget has never been more important. “It should include all the costs of your holiday: gifts (think White Elephant to save money), food (bring your own dish), travel costs (and meals while traveling), new clothes/shoes, decorations, etc.,” she says. “Not making a budget just makes January a miserable month because the bills come due!” Since credit cards are frequently used for holiday purchases, Professor Karen McGrath ’91, finance, says it may be a good time to review your cards for savings. “Interest rates are going up, so you might want to consider making a call to your issuer to see if they’ll lower your rates,” McGrath says. “Or maybe you have a few different airline and hotel branded cards. Take a look at them and determine how much you really use them because odds are that each is charging you an annual fee.” You can find all of their tips here. CONTACTS: Mastrolia, 570-577-1560,; McGrath, 570-577-1667,


CONTACT: Mike Ferlazzo, 570-577-3212, 570-238-6266 (c),

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