Education Committee 


Christopher Vanags serves as the Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach where he works to bridge the gap between scientific research and K-12 education. Dr. Vanags draws from his experience as a scientist to build partnerships between researchers and educators to foster research-based experiences in STEM. Over the last ten years, Dr. Vanags has worked with hundreds of scientists across the Vanderbilt campus to broaden the impacts of their research by providing educational experiences for thousands of K-12 students throughout the region. As one of the four founding faculty of the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt, Dr. Vanags has received numerous accolades for his teaching and scholarship including the Excellence in Earth Science Teaching from the Geological Society of America, the Outstanding Earth Science Teacher for Tennessee, and he was a finalist for Australia’s Young Water Scientist of the Year. His research-based programs have been incorporated or adapted in educational institutions throughout the district and across the country. These programs also provide the framework for a comprehensive STEM reform effort in the United Arab Emirates where Dr. Vanags manages a project to improve the workforce capacity by focusing on STEM education in secondary schools. As a researcher, Dr. Vanags has attracted over $15 million in funding and has published his work on a wide range of educational and environmental topics. He is also the co-founder and associate editor of the journal Young Scientist, which publishes innovative research performed by high school students working in university labs. Apart from serving on the Board of Urban Green Lab, Dr. Vanags has served on various advisory panels for the Metro Nashville Government and currently serves on the Tennessee Environmental Literacy Council and Governor Bill Haslam’s STEM Industry Advisory Council. Dr. Vanags earned a BS in Geology and a MS in Soil Science from the University of Georgia and a PhD in Hydrology and Catchment Management from the University of Sydney. 

Claire Wescott

Claire is the Young Leaders Council Intern for the board. She serves as the Teacher Lead for Metro Nashville Public School’s gifted & talented program, having previously taught in several public school districts & at Stanford University in California. Although she misses spending her days with young students, she enjoys training classroom teachers & parents on how to best support their gifted children academically & socially. She assists in leading a team of over 30 MNPS Pre-K through 8th grade advanced academic teachers through curriculum & professional development.

Claire earned her M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. She also serves on the SXSWedu Advisory Board.

Growing up in a rural area, she loves to combine her passions for the environment & teaching. In 2010, she developed an after-school youth environmental education curriculum for the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace in Washington, DC. She previously developed & taught similar environmental sustainability classes in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Georgia, & Tennessee.

Originally from Southern California & Connecticut, Nashville is the perfect spot in between! In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, & baking.


De’Etra is an assistant professor and extension specialist in the Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department at Tennessee State University where she has been teaching since the Spring 2013 semester. De’Etra attended Southern University and A&M College where she majored in urban forestry, earning her B.S. degree in 2004. De’Etra was then accepted into the M.S/Ph.D. programs in forestry at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. While at Texas A&M, she completed her Ph.D. in forestry with a concentration in spatial and hydrological sciences. De’Etra discovered her passion for teaching spatial and environmental sciences during her time at Texas A&M as a teaching assistant and participant in the Graduate Teaching Academy. She currently serves as the advisor for the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS), Tennessee State University Chapter. She is also a member of the Metro Tree Advisory Committee and Nashville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. Lastly, she serves as Vice President of the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council.