Online Student Puts Education into Practice While Celebrating Affirmative Action


(Left to right) Leslie Ralston, Brian Gessner, Bern Rexer, Academy of Art University online student Kristi Pelzel, Aaron Shivley and Peter Alvey. Photo by Nichole Edwards.

As an Academy of Art University online student, I’m always looking for opportunities to use what I’m learning as a platform. I did just that when I participated in a live event at the United States Department of Labor Headquarters in Washington, D.C. as an assistant sound engineer.

September 24, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of Executive Order 11246 and the establishment of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. 

This order remains a major safeguard, protecting the rights of workers employed by federal contractors—approximately one–fifth of the entire U.S. labor force. (

Any opportunity I get to use what I’m learning in school and apply it to a real world setting has so much value. One positive aspect of the Academy’s online program is that I learn things I can use now in my prospective career field. My classes are geared for future possibilities but are also more of a mentorship program packed with “go do it” learning style since they are taught by people working in this field, and I have real world assignments that I’m creating every week.

I was impressed that Director of the Department of Labor Patricia Shiu walked to the back where the production team was packing up and personally thanked each of us for our effort after the event had concluded. If I ever achieve her level of success, I hope I remember that and copy her actions.