Leadership Team

Romy Banks,

Chief Operating Officer

IMG_0237Romy Banks oversees the organization’s daily operations, as well as collaborates with fellow Leadership team members on essential long-term projects.

Prior to joining the organization, Romy worked in the nonprofit sector where she acquired extensive experience in program and event management, sales and marketing, fundraising and fiscal management—all work that Romy continues in her current position.

Once introduced to systems thinking, Romy immediately saw the positive impact that the habits and tools could have on her work and beyond. Romy is active on several education committees and volunteers regularly in local schools.

Tracy Benson,

President and CEO

As a leader, author and innovator in the fields of systems thinking and organizational learning, Tracy Benson, Ed.D. brings extensive practitioner experience to her organization’s education and corporate work.

As an educator, she has taught at elementary and secondary levels and has been a school principal and district level instructional coach and evaluator.  In addition to K-12 experience, Tracy has served as an adjunct professor in both undergraduate and graduate university programs for teachers and administrators.  She has been a contributing author to several books and most recently is co-author of the Habit-forming Guide to Becoming a Systems Thinker.

Tracy leads a national team of exceptional educators who skillfully make systems thinking concepts and tools accessible to real-world, practical applications.  From the classroom to the boardroom, her capacity building and coaching sessions engage, motivate and inspire people wanting to make positive differences in their thinking, learning and leading.

Thea Cola,

Director of Impact and Development Email Me

Thea Cola leads the Waters Center for Systems Thinking grant and fundraising strategies. This includes identifying grant opportunities, managing submissions, grant writing, program oversight, and more. Previously, Thea was the lead trainer for the Division of Equity, Inclusion and Title IX, where she spearheaded efforts with a team of training coordinators working to build best practice training and facilitation content around sexual violence prevention and the promotion of inclusion and diversity. She has worked in higher education for more than a decade and has extensive experience engaging student populations; providing space for tough conversations around diversity, inclusion and sexual violence, and in promoting advocacy. Thea managed the University of Arizona sexual violence prevention for the past three years within the Women & Gender Resource Center. She is a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington with a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Studies and Latin and Master of Science in Health Promotion.


Matt Holbein,

Creative Technology Specialist

Matt uses technology to produce creative content for the Waters Center, including printed matter, digital graphics, videos, web design, and multimedia projects. He is a graduate of the Illustration program at the Rochester Institute of Technology and his past experience is in graphic and web design. He also co-owns The Foliage Library, a small business where he designs and publishes interactive folding books about nature, and holds a US patent for his folding book designs.

Alexis Kieft,

Director of Communications and Development

Alexis KieftAlexis Kieft manages marketing and a variety of communication activities from initial planning stages to implementation. She brings over half a decade of public relations, marketing, advertising, writing and account management experience from agencies in both the U.S. and U.K. A firm believer in the power of education, Alexis holds Master of Arts degrees in Philosophy and Creative Writing, both from the University of London.

Sheri Marlin,

Chief Learning Officer

updated sheriSheri Marlin, M.Ed. writes, speaks and collaborates with others to apply systems thinking in real-world contexts. She has taught preschool through graduate school and has worked as a building principal and district curriculum specialist.

Sheri finds tremendous satisfaction in facilitating teams of people as they develop shared vision and achieve desired results. By providing resources and sparking curiosity, Sheri keeps learning at the center of everything she does. She believes that when people understand and apply the tools and habits of systems thinking, they are more likely to engage in meaningful, life-long learning and innovation. Sheri is co-author of the Habit-forming Guide to Becoming a Systems Thinker.

Mary Quinnan,

Vice President

Mary QuinnanMary Quinnan, M.Ed. builds on her experience as former Director of Elementary/K-8 Leadership for Tucson Unified School District to facilitate and coach district and school leaders, including teachers, in the tools and strategies of systems thinking and deeper learning.  Mary has an extensive administrative background working with schools in improvement in high minority, high poverty communities to ensure equity and access to quality, research-based best practices.  She believes that building professional capacity in the application of systems thinking with educational leaders, and addressing the cultural impact of our work, allows the education system to foster an engaging, effective, student-centered learning environment for every child.

Mary Scheetz,

Former Director

Mary ScheetzMary Scheetz, M.Ed. has over 40 years experience as an innovative teacher, administrator, project director and consultant. As a middle school principal, she created the first Waters Foundation K-12 Systems Thinking in Education site project, and from 1989 to 2007, as Director of Waters Foundation projects, Mary facilitated national expansion of the Waters Foundation’s K-12 work. Mary has presented systems thinking work in numerous national and international education conferences and facilitated related workshops. As an assistant superintendent, she implemented strategies for the integration of systems thinking in school improvement and into classroom instruction across the district.

Mary also developed the inaugural Systems Thinking Institute, involving participants from multiple school districts and universities in the hosting region.  Her years of work with systems thinking in education are rooted in Mary’s belief that all students are capable of the deeper critical thinking levels that systems thinking habits and tools produce and her desire to see all students have access to systems thinking.

Joan Yates,

Senior Vice President

Loan YatesJoan Yates spent the first 15 years of her educational career teaching middle level English and mathematics and serving as a middle school administrator. Since then, Joan has been devoted to bringing the concepts and strategies of systems thinking to young people by building the capacity of the adults who work with them. For 17 years, she did that by serving as Director of the Systems Thinking Project in Tucson, Arizona’s Catalina Foothills School District.

Now she facilitates professional development and follow-up coaching sessions nationally and internationally, believing that systems thinking provides powerful habits and visual tools that can enhance everyone’s critical thinking and questioning skills.

Joan also derives great pleasure from working closely with many of the Waters Center Associates, assisting them throughout their certification process and continuing as a resource to them once they become facilitators.