Welcome, academic rebels! 

You are here. You made it. We made it!

You might be asking yourself , “What is an academic rebel?”

The academic resides in a place of structure, conducting valid and reliable research. Using data to test a theory.

The rebel is dissatisfied with the status quo, continually seeking alternate explanations for observations and drawing insight from a multitude of sources.

The space between these two seemingly opposing forces is where the academic rebel often resides. She temporarily exists in the space between “I’m done” and “game over;” “yes” and “no;” or, “staying quiet” and “using your voice.”

The academic rebel examines both options. She considers the evidence, communicates with others, trusts herself, and embraces the possibility of innovation and disruption.

And, what about you?

You don’t have to know where you’re going yet. You just know that you want to see things differently.

We're building this together.

Welcome #academicrebel. Let’s build a rebel-oution.

rebel reality 

Welcome to rebel reality!

In this section of the academic rebels' newsletter, we'll highlight challenges that spark change across industries. Here, we'll examine expectations, stigmas, or barriers that limit the potential of an individual, organization, or system.



In our first two issues, we meet the founders of academic rebels, Dr. Ashley Fico and Dr. Stacey Gonzales.

Their rebel reality?

They were strangers, linked by a common experience: Each found themselves in the space between “staying quiet” and “speaking up.”

Staying Quiet 👉 [s p a c e] 👈 Speaking Up

They had their own unique frustrations. But, the feelings that drove their experiences were similar. They were stifled by others’ expectations. Encouraged to continue on predetermined paths. Searching for their voices. And so, they began to post on LinkedIn. This space is where their paths crossed for the first time...

This issue begins with Stacey’s introduction of Ashley. Why does she believe Ashley is a rebel?

Let's find out...



real rebels 

Dr. Ashley Fico (written by Dr. Stacey Gonzales)

I quit my executive position, leaving a career I spent 20 years building. I was suffering in different contexts and found myself beyond broken; grasping to understand the patterns that were preventing me from prevailing.

Searching and scared silent; I couldn’t remember who I was.

I searched “gaslighting” on LinkedIn and found Ashley's post.

The comfort was not in the actual words themselves, but in the spaces. In between.

Those blank lines reminded me that I had worth, even if I couldn’t see it.

I could see my dignity begin to manifest on the screen.

I became brave because this brave woman wrote a brave post.

Just. For. Me.

I commented freely and openly. Hoping it was safe in her space.

Ashley replied. Thoughtfully. With lots of words. Special, specific words. Validating my experience. Acknowledging my pain. Understanding me.


I wanted more. I needed more. I pulled up all of Ashley’s prior posts and hungrily read them all. I began to notice a trend. Again and again. Post after post. Inspiring hope. Provoking reflection. Challenging assumptions. Creating space. Building community.

The open spaces fostered a conversation. First, with myself. Then, with Ashley. Because Ashley’s writing does what all great writing should do: Invite you to a conversation with yourself.

She does this with me. And, she does this with you. That’s what makes her so special.

(For those with an academic tendency, here are some data - real comments collected from Ashley's posts 👇).

“People will tell you that they wish to live a happy life, yet very few use their voice to uplift, encourage and share joy with others. Thank you for being someone who uses their voice.”

“We need more women who are brave, willing to speak up and go against the status quo”

“I, for one, am glad that you use your voice and encourage independent thought. You are someone who has an ability to do so in a respectful and considerate way, while expressing yourself with confidence.”

(For those with a rebel tendency, go find the comments you think prove me wrong 😳 ).


Comments turned to conversations. Conversations opened possibilities. Possibilities became practice. Practice created a relationship.

As you already know, all relationships require work and there will be a test. The test is never for the other person. It is always for you. Tests are an opportunity to refine our character, inspire our creativity, clarify our assumptions, and create the best version of ourselves. A judgement-free space does wonders when taking a test. Ashley has helped me achieve a much better passing rate on The Test to Becoming a Better Human Being.

When I have second-guessed, worried about how something might be received, and became stuck over-analyzing, Ashley was open to listening without judging. We practiced being authentically vulnerable. We pushed past anxiety to clarify our intentions. We are practicing building the kind of partnership that is possible. For me. For you. Together.

One day, I suggested to Ashley, “Maybe I am being overly sensitive.” Her rebel response perfectly sums up her ability to disrupt:

“Think about a standard work environment. No one says anything and everyone is triggered all the time. I'm sure that we'll trigger something for each other now and again, but how great is it if we can talk about that when that happens and move forward? To me, that's a level of group function that I have not observed.”

This is what real rebels do.

They don’t placate. They don’t pretend. They don’t sugar coat.

They respond using clear communication skills to build trust and empower others.

That is a real #academicrebel.

rebel reflections 

We’ll end each newsletter with a rebel reflection - a place where we can explore the intersection of the academic and rebel in each of us. Do you try something new? Or, stay in your comfort zone? Through rebel reflections, we’ll identify ways to step, leap, and jump into spaces we have only imagined. We’ll draw from academic literature. We’ll draw from personal experience. And, then? We'll jump. With support. With each other.


Reflections (written by Dr. Ashley Fico)

Why did I encourage Stacey to speak up?

I suppose it was a response to my own history. A career spent in academia - ironically, studying communication - and yet, often failing to raise my own voice. The power structure of higher education poses challenges in this regard. Though I have worked at institutions with varied faculty governance mechanisms and unions in place, I suffered from the same ingrained fear of many young academics: Without tenure, how do you know it is really safe to speak up?

A review in the Journal of Management by Michael R. Bashshur and Burak Oc casts light on the issue of speaking up in organizational settings. Their model initiates with the opportunity to raise one’s voice within an organization. If raised, the authors pose that vocalization will result in varied outcomes/consequences that are moderated by organizational response. Specifically, when vocalization is ignored, it results in frustration and withdrawal. In contrast, when voice is acknowledged and acted upon, favorable outcomes including innovation, increased job performance, and positive attitudes result.


So, how can organizations create a climate where one has the opportunity to raise his/her voice?

Formal reporting mechanisms won’t be enough.

Internal surveys that promise confidentiality may not be trusted.

So, your best path forward?

Demonstrate safety.

When people speak up, you’ll have to listen.

It might not be easy.

You might want to defend yourself or your policies. Instead, you’ll need to acknowledge the other’s experience -- even if you don’t agree with their perceptions.

If that is how they feel? Those feelings are real to them. They matter.

And then, you’ll need to consider how to respond. Is action required? What action is required? How will you show that openness in dialogue isn’t met with retribution?

Acknowledgement of feelings, recognition of wrongdoing, and acceptance of responsibility? Those are only the first steps toward real change.

If we want a rebel-oution? These are just the beginning...

rebel recommendation 

Do you know an #academicrebel?

We're rebels. You might be a rebel. You might know a rebel.

Help us build our community. Please recommend a rebel to be featured in an upcoming version of our newsletter. It could be someone you know. It could be you!

Are you looking for other ways to help build the academic rebels movement?

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*Encourage others to subscribe: newsletter.academicrebels.com

*Send us your feedback or suggestions for future issues/topics: theacademicrebels@gmail.com

Ashley E. Fico, Ph.D. is co-founder of InnoQuests LLC. InnoQuests LLC enhances tourism by crafting city-based interactive adventures that encourage engagement in problem solving and exploration of local spaces. An original #academicrebel, Ashley draws from her career in higher education, as well as her entrepreneurial efforts, in order to identify factors necessary to facilitate innovation and organizational change.

Stacey Gonzales, Ed.D. is founder of SG Creative Connections LLC. She is a former K-12 administrator, who is igniting the #academicrebel movement with her in-depth knowledge of technology and instructional design. She excels in helping organizations to find clarity and execute in order to reach their goals.