Our Valuable Team Members

Becky Sarwate
Becky SarwatePresident
Becky Sarwate began life as the quintessential book worm, poet and diarist, often requiring a childhood push to lay down her pen and novels and enjoy the natural world. She earned a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana in 2000 and spent several years working in corporate communications for companies like Carlson Wagonlit Travel, before returning to Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago to earn an M.A. in Literature in 2007.

Becky maintains a writing career following two distinct, but equally important, tracks. Since 2009, she has worked freelance assignments for a number of publications including EDGE Media Network, where she reviews Chicago theater productions. She also writes a weekly column for Contemptor.com. In addition, she’s published in RootSpeak magazine, NewCityMake It BetterStreetWise, PoliticusUSA and authors a personal blog. Find her collected works at beckysarwate.com. Becky is a multiple IWPA Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest winner, as well as a five-time National Federation of Press Women award recipient.

Becky’s second act is a continuation of the corporate communications career she began in 2000. She is currently employed as a Sales Communication Manager with TransUnion, a global information solutions company that serves businesses and consumers in 33 countries worldwide.

Becky joined Illinois Woman’s Press Association in 2010 and was appointed editor of the IWPA’s quarterly newsletter, PenPoints, in January of 2011. During her tenure in this role, she also developed the Association’s social media presence on the Twitter and Facebook platforms.

In April of 2013, Becky was honored to be voted IWPA’s 49th President, and is currently serving her second term. She was selected as the Association’s 2014 Communicator of Achievement and won the 2016 Mate E. Palmer Communication Contest’s Silver Feather Award.

Tim Libretti
Tim Libretti2nd Vice President & Membership Chair
Beth Dugan
Beth Dugan3rd Vice President & Professional Contest Chair - Illinois Woman's Press Association

At-Large Contest Director - National Federation of Press Women

Beth Dugan is a graduate of the University of Iowa and studied writing at the prestigious Fiction Writing graduate program at Columbia College, Chicago. She has been a freelance writer for more than a decade and has written for TimeOut Chicago, The Pampered Chef, NewCity Chicago, APICS, Think Glink, UR Chicago, and Venus Zine.

She was the head writer at The Spectrem Group, managing editor of Baby & Kids magazine, Fancy Food and Culinary Products magazine, Chef magazine, and Giftware News magazine. Her fiction has been published in Reservoir.com, Ducts.org, and her non-fiction at Salon.com, Open Salon blog, Chicago Collection magazine, The Banana King, Centerstage and the EDGE Chicago Network. She had performed her work at 2nd Story and RUI: Reading Under the Influence. She is currently the Content Creation Expert for Signal, the global leader and cross-channel marketing technology.

She joined the IWPA in 2011 and served as Programs Chair for one year before becoming the Membership Chair. She was also the 2013 Silver Feather winner and in 2014 won a 1st Place Award at the NFPW conference for her theater reviews along with multiple awards at the state level. Beth is also a member of the Society for Technical Communication and the Chicago Women in Publishing.

Cora Weisenberger
Cora WeisenbergerHigh School Contest Chair

As proof that you can go home again, Cora Weisenberger started her writing career at her hometown newspaper in Kankakee IL, as a feature writer and editor of the weekly food section. During her tenure at the paper, she wrote about everything from fatal train wrecks to a 60-year-old jar of green beans, and loved every minute of it. Cora’s work won numerous awards from state and regional journalism organizations including the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association and the Illinois Press Association.

After eight years as a reporter, and in the throes of early-onset mid-life crises, Cora quit her job and enrolled in the graduate program at the Medill School of Journalism. She earned her master’s degree in 2006.

Degree and student loan in hand, Cora worked as the editor for B2B publications and at the international direct-selling company, The Pampered Chef. As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in publications produced by Rand-McNally, The Chicago Tribune, M2Media360, among others.

Cora is now seeking her next great adventure. Part of that adventure is writing her weekly blog “The Food Goddess” which appears on women.linkedlocalnetwork.com.

Susan Brauer
Susan BrauerTreasurer
Susan Brauer is founder and president of the publishing company, Dreamers Tapestry, Inc. Her published autobiography, a tapestry of abuse and triumph entitled “Just Keep Dancing” was awarded 1st Place in the prestigious Illinois Woman’s Press Association (IWPA) Matte Palmer Literary and Communications Competition. She is also a columnist for the Womens Linked Local Network.

Susan was selected as the Illinois Woman’s Press Association’s 2011 Communicator of Achievement (COA). This prestigious award is an honor bestowed by the IWPA upon those members who have distinguished themselves within and beyond their profession. Susan is active in “Stop the Violence” programs of the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) at a number of Illinois high schools and in December 2011, she was presented the “Volunteer Excellence Award” for her continued participation in Illinois High School District 228’s “Stop the Violence” program. Additionally, Susan shared her “Just Keep Dancing Workshop” on domestic violence with students and teachers at the 2013 FCCLA State Conference held in Springfield, Illinois.

Susan holds a BSEE and an MSEE from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Previous to her presidency at Dreamers Tapestry Inc., she was the Dean of Academic Affairs and the Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University, Chicago. Before her tenure at DeVry University, Susan was a Section Manager in design & development at Motorola and prior to that an RF design & development engineer at Argonne National Laboratory.

Susan is presently a board member and Co-Treasurer of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, and was previously a member of the board of the Chicago Council of Science and Technology (C2ST) and Illinois First Robotics.

Lolita Ditzler
Lolita DitzlerRecording Secretary
Lolita Ditzler, who joined IWPA 1984, was recently honored by NFPW for thirty years of membership.

She entered the writing world in 1969 through the side door of learn by doing when she became a community correspondent for the Rockford (IL) Morning Star daily newspaper. The freelance writer has earned awards in the IWPA and NFPW communication contests with articles published by newspapers, farm magazines, police magazines and women’s magazines plus radio interviews.

Lolita is currently writing a memoir about the seven-year romance with her high school sweetheart that led to a marriage that has lasted more than fifty years. In her home community of Durand, the matriarch of a police family serves as the township clerk and the multi-township assessment district treasurer.

Lolita is also a member of In Print, a professional writers group in the Rockford area affiliated with the Chicago Writers Association, and Janesville (WI) Area Writers Club, an affiliate of Wisconsin Writers Association.

Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas
Marianne Wolf-AstrauskasImmediate Past President/Historian/Archivist - Illinois Woman's Press Association

1st Vice President - National Federation of Press Women (2013 Communicator of Achievement)

Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas is the author of “Joliet,” Images of America Series with Arcadia Publishing, of “The Joliet Rivals Club – a centennial celebration,” and her newest book, “Leadership 1937-203, The First Forty Presidents of the National Federation of Press Women”, a short-story author, and community volunteer. Her writing has won top awards from the National Federation of Press Women and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. She is co-editor of the 2014 IWPA anniversary anthology.

Marianne was selected as the National Federation of Press Women Communicator of Achievement in 2013 and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association Communicator of Achievement in 2013 and in 2008.

Marianne served two-terms as the President of the Executive Board of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association (2013-2009). Before becoming President of the IWPA, Wolf-Astrauskas served the organization as 2nd Vice President /Membership Chair (2009-2005), High School Contest Chair (2012-2010) National Convention Committee (2010) and Book Fair Chair.

Today, she is the First Vice President of the Executive Board of the National Federation of Press Women. She served NFPW as Membership Chair (2009-2011), Executive Board Secretary (2011-2013) and Executive Board Second Vice President (2013-2015).

A graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University, Marianne is President of the Illinois Wesleyan University Chicago Alumni Board and serves on the Illinois Wesleyan University Alumni Association Executive Board. She is a member of the Union League Club of Chicago.

Wolf-Astrauskas served on the senate staff of United State Senator Roland W. Burris as Manager/Intern Coordinator of his Chicago Office.

Kate Danna
Kate DannaFirst Amendment Network Contact
Kate Danna joined IWPA in 2016 and works as an attorney, teacher, writer and consultant.  A graduate of Georgetown University and Saint Louis University School of Law, she practiced in Chicago for 10 years as a litigator with a specialty in written argument.  She has taught business and legal writing at Loyola University of Chicago; writing, rhetoric and discourse at DePaul University; and is adjunct faculty at Maryville University in Saint Louis teaching business law.  Today, in addition to teaching, Kate is a development consultant who helps her non-profit clients create development plans, find funding opportunities and write grants, program materials and proposals.

Kate has a passion for the amazing experiment that is American government, fiercely believes in the importance of our civil liberties, and has a deep and abiding respect for the people and organizations that work to make the world a better place for all of its inhabitants.

Jennifer Ashrafi
Jennifer AshrafiSocial Media Coordinator

Jennifer joined IWPA in 2016 after she became an accidentally viral writer, earning a first place finish in the annual Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest for a personal essay on racial and religious profiling. Jennifer is a radio traffic reporter for 101.9 WTMX and 97.1 WDRV in Chicago by day, and also serves as a Digital Marketing Coordinator for current IWPA President Becky Sarwate’s branded website. These positions allow her to use a variety of communication skills while continuing a never-ending creative exploration.

In March 2016, Jennifer was appointed to IWPA’s Executive Board in the role of Social Media Coordinator. In this high-profile position, Jennifer ensures the execution of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn campaigns devoted to contest awareness, membership recruitment, event and workshop promotion as well as the dissemination of professional opportunities. In addition, she is involved in the research and preparation of FAN-Fair, Illinois Woman’s Press Association’s monthly First Amendment blog.

Jennifer resides in the western suburbs with her husband Max, two daughters Michaela and Raina, and beloved cats Dolce and Coco. In her spare time, she’s an enthusiastic figure skating instructor, volunteers as a Democratic precinct committeewoman, and performs a variety of community service. Keep up with Jennifer on Twitter: @trafficjennifer

Robin Bridges
Robin BridgesPenPoints Newsletter Editor

Robin joined IWPA in 2015 and is the current Editor of PenPoints, the Association’s quarterly newsletter. A student at Northeastern Illinois University, Robin is the Managing Editor for the NEIU Independent and the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Que Ondee Sola Magazine. They are two of the oldest student-run publications in Illinois.

Robin lives in the heart of Chicago with her family. In her position as IWPA’s PenPoints Editor, she enjoys keeping membership informed about upcoming events, contests and IWPA history. Want to contribute content to the newsletter? Send an email to: IWPA1885@gmail.com

Open Board Positions:

  • 1st Vice President/Program Chair