Research within the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) is uniquely positioned to address the political, economic, cultural, historical, social, communicative, and literary dimensions of global challenges. Our research covers areas such as diversity, inclusion, globalization, environment, health, and sustainability. Research in the College seeks to understand, explain, and solve contemporary problems in Indiana, US, and around the globe. CLA researchers have been widely recognized, as well as their work on interdisciplinary teams within the College and in collaboration with researchers in Agriculture, Engineering, Health Sciences, Science, and Technology.
Marcia Stephenson's research has ranged from Latin American literature, to women's studies, to her most recent project focusing on one very specific aspect of Andean cultural studies: exportation of native camelids to Europe, Australia, and the United States. Throughout her career, Stephenson, an associate professor of Spanish in the School of Languages and Cultures, often worked in Bolivia and around indigenous Andean people, but she didn’t always focus on llamas. Before she began research for her book on the exportation of llamas and alpacas from Peru to Europe, Stephenson stumbled upon the subject while visiting one of the National Libraries of France in Paris. "I was looking through some historical circus poster books, and I found a poster that said 'Lions, Tigers, Jumping Llamas from Peru!' and I thought that was bizarre," Professor Stephenson says. "I didn't know there were llamas in France in the 19th century, let alone in circuses. So I thought it could be a study for an article, and it has just mushroomed."
After returning to the U.S., Stephenson received a Purdue Fellowship for Study in a Second Discipline and began training at the College of Veterinary Medicine, where she was able to dissect a llama for her research. She continues to work on her book on the topic: Natural and Unnatural Histories of Andean Camelids (Llamas and Alpacas) in the Transoceanic World: 1568-1970. Stephenson has taught a graduate seminar on natural history in Latin America and worked with one student who connected her with the Ecuadorian advisor to the ambassador to France. She has been a faculty mentor for graduate students since she first came to Purdue, serving, after tenure, as the Associate Director and later Director of Women's Studies. Currently, she is the Spanish Graduate Advisor for students in the literature track, and was recently nominated as the College of Liberal Arts' Outstanding Faculty Mentor. Professor Stephenson has also received two Center for Humanistic Studies Grants, a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Grant, and Purdue's Enhancing Research in the Humanities & Arts Grant, which has enabled her to take time away from teaching and travel worldwide to continue her research on Andean camelids.