We are all Esther Lloyd-Jones’ Grandchildren

Paul G. Brown
Boston College

The student affairs profession is a young profession. As a relatively new profession, the basic philosophies and tenets of the field remain nearly the same as they did almost 100 years ago. Written in 1937, the original Student Personnel Point of View set the philosophy of the profession as that of the “whole student.” It stated that higher education had an obligation to consider the student as a whole – [one’s] intellectual capacity and achievement, [one’s] emotional make up, [one’s] physical condition, [one’s] social relationships, [one’s] vocational aptitudes and skills, [one’s] moral and religious values, [one’s] economic resources, [one’s] aesthetic appreciations. It puts emphasis, in brief, upon the development of the student as a person rather than upon [one’s] intellectual training alone. (American Council on Education, 1937, p. 3)
The profession is also small. Professional networks and connections in the field are dense and interconnected. The combined memberships of the two national comprehensive student affairs organizations, ACPA – College Student Educators International and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, barely reach 15,000, or the population of a mid-sized university. When meeting someone new at a national convention or professional development event, attempting to discover shared connections is a common first topic of conversation.

With these two thoughts in mind, I began to wonder: How far removed are we from the founders of our profession? If we could trace back our lineage, how many degrees separate the current generation of professionals from those that were pioneers in the field? It is with this in mind that I started an Internet experiment known as The Six Degrees of Esther Lloyd-Jones Project. This crowd-sourced project is an ongoing attempt to trace the professional lineage of student affairs professionals to Dr. Esther Lloyd-Jones.

Esther Lloyd-Jones was one of the signatories of the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View, a longtime faculty member at Columbia University Teacher’s College, and a president of ACPA—College Student Educators International. Given her prominence and impact on the field, tracing lineage back to her seemed appropriate. Because of the difficulty of collecting this type of data, I turned to crowdsourcing, a powerful force for harnessing collective power through massive online collaboration. In his work, Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky (2008) states that with the advent of the Internet and social media, “most of the barriers to group action have collapsed, and without those barriers, we are free to explore new ways of gathering together and getting things done” (p. 22).

I developed a website that outlined the project, provided some guidelines and rules for submissions, and linked to a spreadsheet where anyone could add their information. To get it started, I included the connection I knew I had to Esther Lloyd-Jones, through my doctoral adviser, Karen Arnold, and her doctoral adviser, Jo Ann Fly, who was a student of Lloyd-Jones. Beginning with this one connection, I sent out a message across all of my social media networks. Within the first 24 hours, the site recorded over 500 hits. By the end of May 2013, the number of connection strings logged in the spreadsheet is nearing 100 and the page has been viewed over 1000 times. Within these rows are numerous professionals and details of their connections back to Esther Lloyd-Jones.

In the months since I began this project, I have learned a lot, not only about the professional lineage we can trace to Dr. Lloyd-Jones, but also the woman herself and the power of social media and crowdsourcing. I refer to these as both the outcomes and meta-outcomes of the project.

In terms of outcomes in learning about Lloyd-Jones, and the professional lineages we can trace back to her, this project uncovered information from unexpected sources. Although I started this project with two degrees separating Dr. Lloyd-Jones and myself, I discovered that there was actually only one degree of separation between us. While working at Miami University, I had the privilege of working with Dr. Dennis Roberts, a former President of ACPA – College Student Educators International and currently the Assistant Vice President for Faculty & Student Services at the Qatar Foundation. Dr. Roberts has contributed greatly to our understanding of Dr. Lloyd-Jones, conducting an in-person interview with her in 1987 as a part of ACPA’s Generativity Project, delivering one of her eulogies, andwriting a tribute to her in this very same publication seven years ago.

Over the course of this project, I also became connected with Hannah Certis, a new professional that completed her Master’s thesis at the University of Tennessee on the early life of Dr. Lloyd-Jones. I came into contact with Hannah after finding apresentation on Esther Lloyd-Jones that she posted online. I embedded this presentation into my website and upon her noticing its inclusion, she reached out to me. When asked to share the most significant thing she learned about Esther Lloyd-Jones, Certis (personal communication, May 28, 2013) stated the impact of Lloyd-Jones’ 1934 article, “Personnel Administration,” is often overlooked. In many ways it was the precursor to and formed the foundation for the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View. Esther Lloyd-Jones’ impact is perhaps greater than most may realize.

In addition to these outcomes, I also uncovered interesting meta-outcomes about the evolving project. As more individuals added to the project, many previous long strings could be shortened. As I mentioned earlier, I began this project believing there were two degrees separating Esther Lloyd Jones and myself. That has now shortened to one. As additional individuals have contributed their knowledge and information, this has also shortened the lineage for many others and also opened up new avenues for other professionals to connect. The beauty of this project is that as more people contribute to it, the possibilities and information contained therein become exponentially more useful.

The project also highlighted the central importance of our preparation program faculty in maintaining these connections. Given the high volume of future professionals that pass through their classrooms, faculty represents some of the key connectors in the project. Many create the initial first and second generational connections to Esther Lloyd-Jones and, as a result of reaching out to faculty listservs, I received some of the most valuable connections. These faculty members also generously gave of their time to contribute to the project, a quality that is frequently attributed to Dr. Lloyd-Jones. It is perhaps a fitting tribute that they continue in this spirit of giving and collaboration.

Based on this project, I think I can safely conclude that most of the current professionals in the field are likely separated from Esther Lloyd-Jones by only one or two degrees. In essence, we are all her professional children and grandchildren. The incoming generations of graduate students and new professionals are likely to be the fourth generation of student affairs professionals, the great-grandchildren of the profession. As I reflect on this experience and the meaning I have taken away from it, I take pride in the fact that a simple idea, the education of the whole student, is one that has endured for over 90 years. My wonderful colleagues and I are a part of a history attached to an amazing woman who began this “experiment” with her colleagues only two generations ago. As ACPA – College Student Educators International celebrates it’s 90th anniversary, I think this project illuminates not only the history of this profession, but also how we are making history in the present. Knowledge of the past becomes equally as important as knowledge of the present and future.

The Six Degrees of Esther-Lloyd Jones Project is ongoing. If you would like to participate you can head to the project landing page.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the implications of working in a small, interconnected field? For knowledge generation and dissemination? For sharing of best practices? For networking and job seeking?
  2. How does one’s sense of history change when one can make direct connections to the history-makers of the past?
  3. What will be your legacy? For what will you be known?


American Council on Education. (1937). The student personnel point of view. Washington, DC: Retrieved from http://www.myacpa.org/pub/documents/1937.pdf

Shirky, C.  (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations.
New York, NY: Penguin Books.

About the Author

Paul G. Brown is an instructor in the Higher Education programs at Boston College and Merrimack College.  Currently a Ph.D. candidate, Paul has over 10 years of professional experience in higher education and student affairs in a diverse array of functional areas including residential education, honors programs, academic advising, and student activities.  His research passions include issues involving first year students, honors and high ability/high achieving students, learning communities, residential curricula, and social media, technology and design.  He currently serves with the Governing Board of the ACPA—College Student Educators International as the Coordinator for Standing Committees.  Paul holds a B.A. in Philosophy from the State University of New York College at Geneseo and an M.S. in College Student Personnel from Western Illinois University.

Please e-mail Inquiries to Paul G. Brown .

Follow Paul G. Brown on Twitter @paulgordonbrown or visit his webpage.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

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