Joliet, Ill. – It is an honor to be recognized as an inspiration. It is an honor to be recognized for overcoming obstacles to climb extraordinary heights. Maribeth Hearn, MBA, University of St. Francis (USF) Career Success Center director, was recognized for both as she and four other honorees were presented with the Ignitor Award by the Professional Women’s Network (PWN) at its 2019 Summer Soiree on Tuesday, July 30, 2019.

Hearn, who has been with USF for five years as the university’s Career Success Center Director, was one of PWN’s founding members and has since held a variety of roles within the organization.

“As one of the original members of the organization, I have been active as a member, secretary, president twice and past president three times,” Hearn said.   

During her first term as PWN president, Hearn focused on building the organization’s membership and management structure.

“The group has had a new president almost every year, and each president has her own a pet project. My project was to grow our membership and to hire an administrator to take care of the duties in order to free up the board enough to allow for networking,” she said.

“In 2006, there was no iPhone, YouTube was in its infancy and social media wasn’t a big thing yet,” she continued. “We couldn’t grow like we can today—we had to rely on word of mouth. We had to learn how to spread the word organically to attract members. We even offered incentives such as PWN bucks, where you would get a discount if you referred a new member, in an effort to grow our membership.”  

During a recent conversation with other PWN past presidents, Hearn said that she and her peers reminisced about how their organization has continued to grow and address the evolving needs of professional women.

“We each talked about each other’s contributions to the group. We started the Third Fridays group when I was president in 2006. That group is designed to provide women who are in charge of their own income an opportunity to regularly meet, network and share best practices. The group still meets today because of the leadership of Debbie Cladis, another PWN past president, who has cultivated monthly discussion themes while also engaging some past presidents and board members to help share the responsibility to keeping the group going,” she said.

“Barbara Karstrom, another PWN past president, created the Summer Soiree,” Hearn continued. “Other presidents are credited with starting First Fridays, which was a group for women in job transition, the annual Picking the Brains of Really Smart Chicks luncheon, a speaker’s bureau, a writer’s group, a diversity discussion night, and the Professional Young Women’s Network (PYWN), which is a mentoring group for women on the rise in high schools. That mentoring group performs mock interviews and career readiness workshops with our volunteers in the high schools. In short, PWN really does offer something for everyone.”

As for what she sees from a personal perspective as the biggest benefit of joining PWN, Hearn points to her current position at USF.

“Kelly Lapetino, a USF alum and the former Director of the Career Success Center, wrote a letter of recommendation for me for my current role.  She and I had met through the network several years before and she served on the Board of PWN with me.  She is now the Dean at Prairie State College and still an active member of PWN.  I’m thankful that I applied and that I get to make a difference to the students and alumni here.”

The difference to which Hearn is referring is that of the daily impact USF’s Career Success Center has on both current USF students and USF alumni.

“We assist students with their internship and employment needs. We are devoted to helping students and alumni research potential career options. In doing so, we focus on the individual needs, goals, and values of each student. We believe in personal and professional development therefore assistance with job search, resume and cover letter writing, along with career counseling are among the services we offer,” Hearn said.

As for what it means to be honored with this award, Hearn looks to the purpose of USF’s Career Success Center and PWN.

“In the Career Success Center, we are proponents of experiential learning and helping students learn about how they can contribute to the world through work and service. I credit my service on the board of PWN as the experiential learning that taught me how to be a better manager and leader. The acceptance speeches of the other recipients resonated with me as they each talked about following their path, igniting their why, and living their purpose. My goal is to help as many people as I can to not only hear their calling, but to also make a plan to live it,” Hearn said.

PWN’s 2019 Summer Soiree was held at Glenwoodie Golf Club, which is located at 19301 State Street in Glenwood, Ill.

Established in 2001, the Professional Women’s Network helps women develop their careers, enhance their businesses and mentor the next generation of women business leaders through educational programs, resource sharing, and network opportunities. Visit for more information.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves over 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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