Chris Vanags is the Director of Research Initiatives in the Peabody College of Education and a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He is keenly interested in connecting primary scientific research to novel educational experiences with the goal of increasing the STEM pipeline for students from diverse backgrounds. His primary role in the Dean’s office is to support Peabody research initiatives by creating affinity groups of like-minded faculty from across campus to tackle large-scale problems, building relationships with internal and external organizations and educational institutions, and identifying and creating resources to catalyze and inform research on education and human development.
As the Associate Director of the Center for Science Outreach and one of the founding faculty members of the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt, he helped to develop and implement STEM enrichment programs which are grounded in the practice of learning through the generation of primary knowledge. With funding from three consecutive NIH Science Education Partnership Awards, this model has been adapted in different ways to serve thousands of middle school and high school students across the district. He drew from this model to form the basis of an international educational reform effort for 173 schools in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. This three year project resulted in the creation of two STEM-based model schools, a reformation of all science and mathematics standards and the creation of thirteen high school courses with aim to improve student retention and increase the STEM workforce.
His work is supported by two different NSF programs to improve access to Computer Science for middle and high school students and another to increase the pipeline of underrepresented minority students into the geosciences. He is also funded by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to roll out and study a standards-based sustainable living education module in partnership with the Nashville non-profit organization Urban Green Lab.