Matt Pacenza
Executive Director

Credit: // M.A.BARATTA

Credit: // M.A.BARATTA

Matt joined HEAL in Feb. 2011. He worked for nearly four years as our Policy Director, managing our policy agenda on nuclear waste, energy and clean air issues. In Jan. 2015, Matt began working as HEAL’s Executive Director, managing the organization’s staff, program and budgets.

Matt has a BA from Cornell University in Environmental Policy and an MA from New York University in Journalism. Prior to working at HEAL, he worked in magazine and newspaper journalism and in advocacy and campaigns for health, environmental, theatre and human rights organizations. A native of upstate New York, he has lived and worked in Guatemala, New Orleans, New York City and Albany, N.Y. He now lives in the Sugarhood with his wife and two young sons.

Matt is our contact for media inquiries, general inquiries about policy and lobbying and more. He can be reached at or 801-355-5055.

Sophia Nicholas
Associate Director

credit: MA Baratta/Slug Magazine

credit: // M.A. BARATTA

Sophia joined HEAL Utah in 2008 as the organization’s first Development Director. In 2015, she became HEAL’s Associate Director where, in addition to fundraising, she is now also responsible for financial administrative tasks.  She works with Matt and the Board on operational and organizational management; financial development and reporting; budgeting; facilitating the 990 filings and audit; maintaining organizational policies; and bookkeeping.  She also works with the Board and other staff members to help HEAL reach its revenue goals by developing and implementing the fundraising plan, including membership, grants, and special events.

Sophia is a Utah native who traveled east for college and graduated with a degree in political science from Wellesley College outside of Boston. She’s happy to be back in Utah and loves spending her time outside the office mountain biking, running rivers, traveling abroad, and eating brownies.

Sophia is the staff contact for administrative, membership, fundraising, sponsorship, and special events inquiries. You can reach her at

 Ashley Soltysiak
Senior Policy Associate

Photo Credit: Chelsey Allder, Deseret News

(c) Chelsey Allder, Deseret News

As HEAL’s Senior Policy Associate, Ashley assists with our clean air, renewable energy and nuclear waste campaigns, performs legislative research and analysis and works to build coalitions and encourage our grassroots.

A native of Michigan, Ashley graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Environmental Biology and Zoology. In the following years, she conducted field research in South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Australia, Colorado, and Georgia. After working on a range of international and domestic projects, she earned her MPA from Cornell University, in Environmental Policy. During this time, she was inducted into the Pi Alpha Alpha National Honor Society and worked for the Federal EPA. When she isn’t trying to save the planet she moonlights as a snowboard/ski instructor.

Please direct questions regarding the legislative agenda or our campaigns on nuclear threats, clean air, and renewable energy to or give her a call at (801)-355-5055.

Laura Schmidt
Outreach Coordinator

Laura with "share the love" checkAs the Outreach Coordinator, Laura, organizes the HEAL’s volunteers, manages outreach opportunities, and assists with fundraising events.

Hailing from Michigan, Laura is a graduate of Central Michigan University with a BS in Environmental Studies, Biology, and Religious Studies. After some stints living and playing in North Carolina & Louisiana, she earned her MS in Environmental Humanities from the University of Utah.

She is the staff contact for information regarding volunteering, outreach opportunities, and materials requests. Reach her via email ( or phone (801)-355-5055.

Michael Shea
Policy Associate


HEAL’s Policy Associate since late 2015, Michael manages HEAL’s policy agenda encouraging a transition away from coal power to clean energy. He also assists with our policy work focusing on clean air and nuclear issues. 

Michael is a native Utahn who was born and raised in Salt Lake City. He has a degree in Economics from Westminster College and Masters in Public Administration from the University of Utah. His past work includes various political campaigns such as, Corroon for Governor and Count My Vote.  In addition, he worked in the mayors’ office for Salt Lake County doing community outreach. 

When he isn’t working, you will find him skiing or mountain biking in the Wasatch with his golden retriever Rocky.  

Reach him via email ( or phone (801)-355-5055.

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