The Past, Present, and Future for GRO

By Marla-Fiona Anderson for GRO

The Georgiana Rose Organization (GRO) is a mental health-focused student organization dedicated to the individual, social, cultural and political advancement of Black women at UChicago. Our aim is to create a community for people who identify with the Black ethnicity and femininity to feel safe in their identities and to develop platforms and tools for their voices to be heard, amplified, and validated on campus. 

GRO was founded in June of 2020 by Marla Anderson (B.A. ’22), Dayo Adeoye (B.A. ’22) and Gabby Mahabeer (B.A. ’22). GRO was designed to bring together Black women from all parts of campus through a non-exclusive registration process and engage them with a variety of activities that promote personal and communal self-care; priorities that are sometimes left on the backburner while balancing and acclimating to life on campus. 

Our organization is committed to the highest standards of inclusion and respect. While our mission is specific to the advancement of Black women and people who identify with Black femininity, we strive to maintain a welcoming atmosphere in everything that we endorse as an organization. Therefore, we aspire to participate in and adapt to contemporary conversations surrounding womanhood and open our space to all, regardless of their particular gender expression.

Our founders were inspired by the story of Dr. Georgiana Rose Simpson, the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in the United States. Simpson received her doctorate in German from the University of Chicago on June 14, 1921, just a few weeks after the Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma, evidence of the period’s broader racial attitude. While on campus, Simpson briefly lived in Green Hall while it was a women’s dormitory at the time. Protesting from her white Southern peer forced Simpson out. Despite these challenges, Simpson remained committed to her studies and left behind a groundbreaking legacy as the first Black woman to achieve the highest level of formal education offered in the US education system. Our organization is named after Dr. Georgiana Rose Simpson to pay homage to her life, work, and resilience, and embrace the collective history and experience of Black womanhood at UChicago.

Since GRO was founded during the pandemic, our first events were held online. This included the first annual Dr. Georgiana Rose Simspon Day event on March 31, 2021 where GRO’s former President Marla Anderson, Vice-President Dayo Adeoye, and Advisors Dr. Melissa Gillliam and Candace Hairston shared their experiences as members of UChicago’s Black woman community. Our organization continues to reserve this day to uplift and highlight the experiences of Black women at UChicago. 

GRO’s first in-person event took place on May 9, 2021, a trip to see the Bisa Butler: Portraits exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, works from Black quilt artist Bisa Butler that celebrate Black life. The exhibit included her I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings portrait named after Maya Angelou’s 1969 memoir depicting four Black women attending college during the Jim Crow era. As Black women attending a predominantly white institution, the group resonated with the confidence and resilience depicted by the young women in the portrait and took a photograph with the piece. 

Since then, GRO has taken further inspiration from Maya Angelou by adopting language from one of her famous quotes as focuses for our organization and its four committees. 

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” — Maya Angelou.

Our four committees and their focuses are:

  1. Passion Committee – desires, inspirations, enthusiasms and creativities
  2. Compassion Committee – mental health and self-care
  3. Humor Committee – fun and entertainment
  4. Style Committee – newsletters, social media, marketing and branding

If you’re interested in connecting with us, joining a committee, participating in leadership, or signing up for our newsletter to get updates about future events (including our third annual Dr. Simpson Day!), please send us an email at

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