Welcome, academic rebels! 

Welcome back, rebels!

We thought our experiences weren’t unique. We imagined others might be feeling powerless, constrained, and silenced. But, we never anticipated the amazing response to our very first issue. Messages came in from rebels around the world - rebels who represent different industries, backgrounds, and organizations -- each sending support, stories, and rebelicious ideas. These are your voices:

“This is why I’m homeschooling my kids. I want them to think critically and be able to have a conversation that is amicable even if [they have] differing views!”

“I wished it was on paper so I could highlight and annotate, as this echoes my feelings and frustrations.”

“Rais[ing] a voice in an organization enriches everybody. Because if those who speak up can notice they [were] listened [to], it can be a great step!”

A huge THANK YOU for showing up. For being academic rebels. Remember - it’s your energy, power, voice, and insight that matters. That’s where change begins.

Be a part of the rebel-oution by:

Keep the rebel-oution strong!

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.

This issue’s rebel reality returns to a challenge faced by Dr. Stacey Gonzales, academic rebels’ co-founder. During the first part of her career, Stacey held numerous administrative positions within public education. She desired innovation - novel solutions that would meet students’ needs - and yet, often faced barriers as she promoted their introduction.

Unfortunately, innovation is a challenge across numerous educational contexts. In the context of higher education institutions, Bajzíková and Lasáková (2017) identify innovations as novel methods or changes related to who provides instruction, the topics covered, the pedagogical methods used, and/or the environment in which education takes place. Their work further reviews barriers to innovation, including:

  • Reliance on accreditation procedures that fail to measure innovative outcomes
  • Use of systems that do not remunerate staff for engaging in innovation
  • Lack of distributive leadership that may be affiliated with the reduced empowerment of educators

How do the academic rebels see these barriers?

To us, problems prohibiting innovation run even deeper than external pressures (e.g., regulations, accrediting bodies) and internal practices (e.g., lack of incentives).

While these barriers do pose a legitimate threat to innovation, there is an even greater threat: the human barrier. These human barriers may originate in response to an organization’s external pressures and internal practices. They are the words that are used to maintain the status quo. These barriers can be confusing, as the words spoken often fail to capture the underlying message intent:

The words spoken include…

“I’m not sure that is feasible right now…”

The underlying message may be…

“I’m already overwhelmed. I don’t have the time, effort, or energy to devote to another initiative.”


“I’ve raised issues such as this one before. People always say ‘no.’ It’s not worth trying.”

The words spoken include…

“Our policy states…”

The underlying message may be…

“Policy change takes effort and support. With the turnover we’re experiencing, the people that I have to convince won’t be here long enough to approve these changes.”

The words spoken include…

“I don’t believe this will be a problem, but we’ll have to wait until next year due to budget constraints.”

The underlying message may be…

"I hope she will forget about this by next year. I hate to disappoint her, but it's doubtful we'll have the funding then either."

These human barriers often result in people feeling stuck. Curious as to how many people feel stuck? Check out a recent LinkedIn poll by John Knotts on the current state of empowerment at work.

Human barriers create an internal conflict for many people. They want to follow their heart. They want to innovate. Yet, they feel incapable of doing so in their current environment. When this conflict occurs, troubling emotional reactions can follow, such as disengagement and detachment from the organization and/or feelings of anger or hopelessness. A problem has been identified. A solution exists. And yet, the barriers to implementing the solution seem insurmountable.

When faced with such issues, individuals often follow three possible paths:

  • Keep their head down, giving into the status quo. They may detach from the organization and others. They seek to survive.
  • Become increasingly emotional, releasing their anger and frustration at an unsupportive system. Or, they may release their emotions onto their loved ones. The weight of these challenges infiltrates other aspects of their lives.
  • Use their emotions as fuel. They empower themselves. They decide what they need to do in order to make a change.

And, sometimes?

That feeling of empowerment may lead one to leave a broken system.

To harness those emotions and recommit to a desire to make a lasting impact.

To innovate from the outside.

real rebels 

In the real rebels portion of our newsletter, we’ll share stories of the innovators, creators, and rebels who are making waves and paving their own way in various industries. This month, Dr. Ashley Fico introduces Dr. Stacey Gonzales.

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

I remember the first LinkedIn post that drew me to Stacey. A black-and-white video clip of a woman in pearls popped up in my feed. She was a stereotypical 1950’s-style housewife. The male narrator’s voice echoed over her prim and proper appearance with the sentiments of the time: “Don’t talk too much.” “Avoid monopolizing the conversation.”

It was the socialization of silence.

But, Stacey’s post?

It was a bold opposition to his words. A call to women everywhere to stand together, to advocate for themselves, and to show up even when we didn’t feel brave.

The line that really caught my eye?

“If we remain silent, how will things ever change?”

And, that’s when I knew. Stacey was an #academicrebel.

The post was powerful and brave. Yet, I also had the impression those words were being driven by pain. I didn't yet know her story. But, I felt it. I felt the anger of being silenced and controlled by others. I knew that place well. I had watched the tears of frustration stream down my own face. The result of being annoyed with myself for not finding the right words. And, I could feel Stacey's exhaustion - the result of multiple battles. The consequence of continually showing up and seeking to be heard.

Our first Zoom meeting confirmed all of my perceptions of Stacey. She was energetic, passionate, intuitive, insightful, encouraging, and kind. Her statements were bold, but her words were thoughtful.

That call is also where I learned the first pieces of Stacey’s story. The challenges that she’d faced. The contradictions between her desire for innovation and her existence in a system that was not yet set up in a way that would help her to fulfill those needs. The details aren’t important. But, here is what you need to know:

She was in a situation that wasn’t working for her. She was determined to make an impact. She felt she could no longer do so in a way that felt right to her.

And so, what was Stacey’s rebel response?

Trust yourself.

That’s right. She walked away from the situation.

It was a courageous move. Brave. To leave everything you’ve built over time.

But, she wanted to follow her heart. So, that meant starting over. Building on her own.

As we’ve continued our work together, I see this simple principle guiding her decisions; and now, guiding my own.

As we’ve encountered decisions for academic rebels, she’ll kindly ask, “How are you feeling about this?” When my answer has been negative, we’ll talk about where those feelings originate. Is it truly a result of our work? Or, is it a past experience that is influencing my reaction to a present situation?

And, the end result of those conversations? She doesn’t push. She just says: “Trust yourself.” And so, I do.

Sometimes, that means pushing past my anxieties. Other times, that means walking away from something that isn’t a good fit or hasn’t been offered at the right time. But, any time that I have followed her advice? That I have trusted myself? I haven’t regretted it.

So, your first step in becoming a rebel? Trust yourself.

Your second step? Encourage others to do the same.

That’s a real rebel.

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.

All work is emotional. Why? Because work involves people. And, people have emotions. Emotions are not “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” or “negative or positive.” Emotions are information. They can help you to navigate complex situations. Your environment, childhood, culture and other factors play a role in your underlying beliefs about the value and management of emotions. Learning about these influences will help you to prepare for future encounters.

In professional situations, strong emotions will undoubtedly arise. For some, these intense emotions may lead to responses that could jeopardize one’s well-being. Some may seek to push the undesirable emotion away. Others may reject the emotion, projecting it onto another person in close proximity. They may make snide comments, glare at others, or make unfair accusations. Still others may seek to conceal their emotions. They may pretend they aren’t there, avoid others’ emotions, or bury their own reactions deep inside.

What does the academic rebel do with intense emotions?

Rebels know that practicing and using a formula for intense emotions can lead to empowerment, peace, and freedom.

Step 1. Notice your emotions. Do not reject or embrace them. Allow them to be there.

Step 2. Label your emotions. Not sure what you’re feeling? Check out a “feelings circle.” Learning to differentiate between variants of underlying emotion can help you to redirect your energy. Do you feel violated? Or, do you feel provoked? What led to the anger that you’re experiencing?

Step 3. Sit with the feeling. Give it some space. Where in your body do you feel it the most? Rate the intensity of those feelings using a 1 (not at all) - 10 (extreme) scale. Where do you need to reduce the intensity?

Step 4. Address the emotion. You can reduce its intensity in various ways. Talk it through with a trusted partner. Exercise. Take a walk. Change the energy that you’re experiencing.

But, don’t stop there.

The next step is where the academic rebel prevails:

Step 5. Use your emotions as fuel for the fire. Grow. Build. Strategize. Implement. It's not always easy. But, it is always possible to try.

Want more? “These Seven Emotions Aren’t Deadly” provides ideas, illustrations, and a bit of humor to help navigate and reframe emotions in the workplace.

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?

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.