By Jeremy Craig
Ranell Myles has a passion for helping people. Thanks to support from the Ford Foundation, she’ll be able to help sociologists explore the health and perspectives of those who are being relocated from Atlanta’s public housing.
Myles, recipient of the prestigious $60,000, three-year fellowship and a doctoral student in sociology, is helping with surveys of public housing residents. The study is part of Georgia State’s Urban Health Initiative, which focuses on the transformation of public housing in Atlanta from the residents’ perspectives as they are relocated in the wake of the closing of traditional housing projects.
Atlanta is on track to become the first city in the nation to eliminate traditional housing projects, which may have potential social and health consequences for those who have been relocated.
Myles, who also works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is one of only 60 awardees of the fellowship nationwide. The fellowship is aimed at increasing minorities in academia. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Spelman College, and her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Southern California.
As she progressed in her academic career, a desire to impact communities grew, especially as she learned about the high rates of HIV infection among African-American women.
“I looked into career pathways to help address those statistics, and that’s when I looked into public health,” she said. “I’m a health educator at heart, and I’ve always wanted to help people.”
Her time at the CDC also exposed her to people in multiple disciplines — including sociology.
“I love it here. I love the professors, the courses, and the field,” Myles said.
As part of her doctoral program, she will also teach introductory courses in sociology, learning how to impart what she’s studied to undergraduate students.
“I had never thought about teaching until I applied for the fellowship,” she said. “By doing this, and going through the sociology department’s teaching program — which is one of the best programs I've ever heard of — I feel like I will be prepared for a career in academia, but I can still apply my skills to the community.”
The public housing research project has been funded through grants from the National Science Foundation, the American Sociological Association Funds for Advancement of the Discipline Award, a University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research Award, as well as a GSU University Research Services Team Grant award.
In surveying public housing residents, Myles said she’s heard a variety of interesting responses, including those about race. It’s a matter that comes up in the discussion about public housing and relocation, because the people being affected by the housing transitions are majority low-income African Americans.
Myles said when asked how often respondents asked thought about their race, some answered never.
“That was kind of shocking to me,” she said.