Mary Kim Ward Resilience and Service Award

Portrait of Mary Kim WardMary Kim Ward served in program development for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for the State of Maryland. She was invited by Secretary Stephen Moyer to join his team in June of 2015 in support of his anti-corruption initiative. 

Prior to this assignment, Colonel Ward served in the Baltimore County Police Department. She worked in several assignments throughout her thirty-three year career. These assignments included numerous precinct locations at various ranks. From 2000 to 2006, Colonel Ward led the agency's Operations Bureau.

Colonel Ward was active in many local and national forums and seminars, including the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at the Kennedy School of Government. Colonel Ward graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. In addition, Colonel Ward was a member of numerous organizations focusing on law enforcement and leadership.

Colonel Ward held a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Education degree from Towson State University, Towson, Maryland, and a Master of Applied Behavioral Science from Johns Hopkins University.

In honor of her lifelong dedication to education and public service, APUS established the Mary Kim Ward Resilience and Service Award. The Mary Kim Ward Resilience and Service Award recognizes resilience, patience, and determination, and a student’s impact and influence on public service, social justice, and inclusion.

Established in 2020, the Board of Trustees presents the award annually during Commencement weekend to one APUS undergraduate or graduate student in the current graduating class. Each graduating class includes six conferrals: August 1, October 1, December 1, February 1, April 1, and June 1.

  • A student of the university in the 2024 graduating class, undergraduate or graduate, who demonstrated a dedication to their academic pursuits through maintaining a 3.5 GPA
  • Demonstrates resilience and determination through obtaining their education despite personal setbacks or challenges
  • A leader who has made a significant impact on their community, industry, or the world
  • Work with or for public service or education with an emphasis on supporting mental health needs, or championing inclusion
  • Nominations may be made by faculty, staff, students, alumni, and those familiar with the nominee’s work
  • Nominees will be notified and asked to provide a narrative of no more than 250 words or video of no more than two minutes

All materials are to be submitted in one complete packet on the award nomination form. Late or incomplete submissions will not be considered.

  • A completed nomination form
  • A letter of recommendation from a faculty member. The letter must provide examples of how the student has made excellent contributions to the classroom by engaging with the content and/or leadership among their peers throughout the class. You may want to give your recommendation writer a summary of the award
  • A reflection on your resilience overcoming personal setbacks or challenges. The reflection may be submitted as a narrative of no more than 250 words or a video of no more than two minutes
  • Your current professional resume
  • Nominations are accepted at each conferral throughout the year
  • The Academic Awards Committee will review all eligible candidates
  • Top candidates are presented to the University Provost for review
  • The University President grants final approval
  • Award recipients will be honored during Commencement weekend, and should we have an in-person celebration, one night accommodations and individual travel expenses to attend Commencement will be paid for by the University
  • Award recipients receive an engraved plaque
  • Award recipients are not required to attend Commencement to accept the award

2021 Mary Kim Ward Award Recipient

Philysha Beneby

Philysha Carol Beneby is a Navy veteran, born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida. In 2019, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland University College. In October 2021, she earned a master’s in psychology with a concentration in military and trauma from AMU. 

In the future, Philysha plans to earn a master’s degree in genetic counseling and a Ph.D. in epigenetics. During her time at the University, she was initiated into Pi Gamma Mu, the Society for Collegiate Leadership and Achievement, and the SALUTE National Veterans Honor Society.

In November 2021, she presented her thesis at the Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention and received a Top Ten award. Philysha is the co-chair, convention coordinator, and secretary of American Psychological Association (APA)  Division 20 Special Interest Group Coping, Resilience, and Successful Aging. Her research goals involve epigenetics and intergenerational trauma among black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities. She focuses on gene inheritance and intersectionality as well as intergenerational trauma and its physical/mental relation to aging. 

Philysha is the founder and chief executive of Beneby Enterprises, where she is a trauma recovery coach and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) consultant. She is also a UN Generation Equality Commitment Maker. She collaborates with the Action Coalition on Feminist Movements and Leadership, the Action Coalition on Technology Innovation for Gender Equality, the Action Coalition Private Sector and Philanthropy, and the Action Coalition of Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. 

Philysha has provided promotion, rebuilding, healing, and advocation services to the homeless of Palm Beach County, working with members of all age groups and backgrounds. She is a certified clinical trauma specialist in family and addiction.

In her free time, Philysha enjoys painting, tennis, theatre visits and, playing the piano. She also loves learning French, dancing, reading, gaming, hiking, swimming, volunteering, mentoring, traveling, wine tasting, cooking and picnicking with her fiancée.

The submission deadline is now closed. Please stay tuned in Fall 2023 for updates for the 2024 University Awards. For additional information or questions, contact the University Awards Committee.