Dr. Janis Droegkamp '68
2020 Recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Award for Community Service
Inspired in 1972 by President John F. Kennedy’s call for service to others, Dr. Janis (Jan) Droegkamp ꞌ68 served as a trainer and guidance counselor volunteer in two very unique settings: first in Jamaica as a school and Ministry of Education-based advisor, and then, in Lesotho helping set up a national counseling program. The experience would spark a lifelong commitment to the Peace Corps and service throughout her community in greater Springfield, Ill.
There are many other organizations and efforts Dr. Droegkamp has been a part of during her adult life. Whether she is working for Habitat for Humanity, registering new voters, conducting a workshop for homeless kids on self-esteem, working for peace or appearing on World News Report in St. Louis to comment on how apartheid affected women in South Africa, she is always engaged and always seeking to make a difference. Numerous letters of support accompanied her nominations from leaders across her community detailing her many accomplishments.
She is known as a leader in her community and is a role model of civic leadership and engagement. She brings her international work and knowledge to her scholarship and teaching. She is committed to service in support of a democratic community. She serves others in hopes that they, too, will become empowered and work for education, peace, understanding and a better world.
Dr. Droegkamp began her professional career in elementary education teaching fifth grade. In her master’s program in school counseling at Marquette University that would follow, she gained skills and an appreciation of how to be an activist for social justice. During her doctoral studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she was committed to experiential training that took her abroad once again to Lesotho, as well as Thailand and Indonesia, to work on adult education projects.
As she began her tenure at University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) formerly Sangamon State University in 1985, she also served as an independent trainer and worked on short-term projects for the Peace Corps, training and conducting evaluations in the U.S., Kenya and the Fiji Islands. Her community service, knowledge, and skills enabled her to be invited by Peace Corps to then help start a new Peace Corps program in Zimbabwe and to serve as an Associate Peace Corps director in Albania and Uganda for more than four years.
She also served as a visiting professor at the University of Botswana, where she worked with the counseling department, conducted staff development workshops, did research on older women, and worked to develop exchange programs.
Dr. Droegkamp currently holds the title of professor emerita from UIS, where she worked until her retirement in 2006. She was a key faculty member in the School of Innovative and Experiential Learning, receiving three major faculty awards during her tenure – the 2006 Naomi B. Lynn Award for Outstanding Contributions to Women, 2005 Robert Spencer Award for Service and the 1994 Distinguished University Service Award for Teaching.
After her official retirement from teaching at UIS, she accepted a position within the Peace Corps an assistant director of Training and Programming in Albania and Uganda, where she supervised the host country staff. In recognition of her long-standing commitment, she was recognized by the Peace Corps and the U.S. Embassy in Uganda with an Exemplary Service Award.
Beyond the Peace Corps, Dr. Droegkamp is known locally for her life of service and education. Since 2012, she has been active in Faith Coalition for the Common Good helping empower disenfranchised citizens for political, educational and economic development by leading their voter engagement work. She is a weekly volunteer in their office year-round serving as a deputy registrar and works with the organization to get out the vote in underrepresented community groups. She also guest lectures at UIS on global issues, is a communication specialist with Mom's Demand Action, and volunteers with Wooden It Be Lovely Program for at-risk mothers and children.
She is a volunteer docent at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library. Moreover, she has conducted seven taped interviews for the Lincoln Library, interviewing key players in the 1972-2018 Illinois fight for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. She also volunteers to transcribe interviews for their Oral History Project - preserving fascinating stories about local events and persons of interest.
Dr. Droegkamp has also served on the boards of Mini O'Bieme Crisis Nursery, Montessori Children’s House, Planned Parenthood and Parents without Partners. Her goals on these boards were to support underserved populations, give a voice to those who are oppressed and educate the community about the issues of reproductive choice, single parenthood and children and women at risk.
For five years, she was an active participant in the Study Circles program that was started by the Mayor of Springfield to promote dialogue and racial harmony. She served as the lead facilitator helping to develop a program that could be used nationwide. She was also invited by former Mayor Hasara to serve on the Racial Issues Taskforce because of her interest and past efforts. She continues her work on anti-racism through her religious community.
She has worked with the Illinois Department on Aging to build a coalition of mental health providers for the elderly. In 2000, she was honored by the Springfield YWCA with their leadership distinction, Woman of Excellence Award, for her engagement and service efforts throughout the community.
Dr. Droegkamp was also a founding member of the Friends of Nelson Center that led the drive for a second sheet of ice at Lincoln Park. She sold bricks, helped coordinate the annual Jam fest and solicited corporate donors to support a new recreation facility for area youths. As part of this effort, she was a founding member of the Lincolnland High School Hockey League that brought hockey to the area high schools. Today, thousands of adults and children have a new athletic opportunity. Her grandchildren skate on that very ice.
Dr. Droegkamp graduated in 1968 with a degree in elementary education and physical education. As a student she was an active member of the Delta Zeta sorority, Women’s Athletic Association and Student National Education Association.