She was the first UMSI faculty member to receive recognition and major funding for her work in the field of community engagement, including grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Institute for Museum and Library Studies, and other funders. Throughout her academic career she had a strong commitment to mentoring masters and doctoral students and guide them toward careers involving community engagement. In 2014 the School of Information, to honor her leadership, created a new School of Information faculty award, the Joan Durrance Community Engagement Award. Awardees are honored for their excellence in building partnerships with communities to develop successful, sustainable information-related projects that address societal challenges.