Alumna Creates Academic Award Named After Geráld the Turkey

Gerald in the wild life

RIC’s turkeys, like this award, encourage students to take advantage of RIC’s abundance.

For the first time at Rhode Island College, an award in honor of a turkey has been created by alumna and graduate assistant hall director Tiana Dickenson ’21, M.S.W. ’24 in collaboration with the RIC Foundation and the Office of Residential Life and Housing.

“You might know the turkey. He’s known for attacking cars on campus,” says Dickenson, who named the animal. 

(During mating season, male turkeys will peck at reflective surfaces like the rims of cars or polished car doors, interpreting their own reflection as an intruding rival.)

Geráld is now the nickname given to any turkey spotted on campus. He’s so legendary that a sandwich was named after him at RIC’s Donovan Dining Center, and the graduating Class of 2024 made a bronze statue in his honor.

Dickerson wearing Gerald's merchandise
Dickerson and her partner, James Kozusko, showcase T-shirts featuring Gerald's image available for purchase at

Dickenson, who earned her B.A. in psychology in 2021 and her M.S.W. in May 2024, says that the idea of creating this award was inspired by the Allan J. Chille Leadership Award she received as an undergraduate.

“When I received that award, I felt inspired. I wanted to give back, although I didn’t have money to create an award on my own,” she says. “So, a couple of years later, during my last year as a graduate student, I collaborated with the RIC Foundation and Residential Life and Housing to create the Geráld’s Turkey Fund Award.”

Award recipients must be enrolled at RIC; have a GPA of 2.5 or more; submit a 500-800 word essay about their challenges and what they learned from them; and a letter of recommendation from a RIC faculty, staff, counselor or mentor. 

Most of the initial funding for the award came from the Foundation’s annual RIC Giving Day. In addition, Dickenson sells Geráld the Turkey T-shirts, crew necks and hoodies through a fundraiser website called A certain percentage of the sales go toward the award fund.

“I hope to eventually connect with the RIC Bookstore and get our merch sold there,” says Dickenson. “I want to include more people, so hopefully we can award more students.”

The theme of this year’s award is “In the face of adversity.” Dickenson chose a student who demonstrated determination, perseverance and commitment to their education – nursing student Bryan Soto, who received $1,000 in April. 

A native of Guatemala, Soto began his journey at RIC in 2019 in the ESL Intensive Program. In 2020 he enrolled in college classes to become a bilingual nurse. 

Soto Receives Award
Bryan Soto stands with pride holding the Gerald the Turkey Award he received at RIC.

Soto thanks the award committee for recognizing his efforts throughout the past seven years. He also praises his professors, the Writing Center, Project ExCEL, Student Support Services and his mentor Laura Faria-Tancinco, coordinator of the English as a Second Language Intensive Program and Project ExCEL, for supporting him as an English student in the ESL Intensive Program and now through Project ExCEL as a nursing major.

“I’m thankful to be at RIC,” he says. “The scholarships, award and financial aid that I’ve received have practically covered my studies. I don’t owe anything to the state or any other source.”

Soto encourages newcomers to this country to follow their dreams. “The opportunities at RIC and in this country are endless,” he says. “We just need to look for them, find out what we can do and how to accomplish them.”

Visit Gerald’s Turkey Fund to learn more.