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  • Innovator's Resilience: Confronting Backlash and Forging Academic Progress

    Posted by José Valentino Ruiz on August 17, 2023 at 2:20 am

    “Innovator’s Resilience: Confronting Backlash and Forging Academic Progress”

    Brandon Robertson, M.M.

    Florida Gulf Coast University

    José Valentino Ruiz, Ph.D., D.Min.

    University of Florida


    This article delves into the multifaceted challenges that innovative faculty members encounter when pursuing educational advancement in higher education. It explores the intricate dynamics of resistance, skepticism, and rivalry that can emerge as a response to groundbreaking initiatives, revealing a profound connection between these reactions and underlying insecurities. Drawing parallels with strategic war maneuvers, the article presents a comprehensive framework for navigating such backlash with finesse, highlighting ten strategic approaches that can transform adversity into opportunities for unity and collaboration. In leading with empathy, aligning with larger visions, cultivating allies, and communicating the bigger picture, innovative educators can address apprehensions and foster an environment conducive to change. This work underscores the transformative influence of innovative professors, emphasizing their role in shaping academic trajectories and fostering a culture of progress within institutions.

    Keywords: innovation, higher education, academic progress, backlash, resistance, insecurity, strategic approach, unity, collaboration, faculty, educational advancement, transformative influence.

    Innovator’s Resilience: Confronting Backlash and Forging Academic Progress

    In the realm of higher education, the pursuit of innovation often encounters formidable challenges that test the mettle of even the most visionary faculty members. The narrative unfolds as a journey of introducing novel ideas, constructing new programs, and advocating for change within the educational landscape. These endeavors, however, are far from straightforward; they often encounter unexpected barriers that emerge from unforeseen quarters. This narrative isn’t confined to isolated incidents but rather reverberates across institutions and disciplines, unveiling a recurring pattern of resistance to change that can be disheartening. Consider the scenario of a faculty member who is driven by an unwavering commitment to elevate the educational experience. They embark on a quest to introduce innovative methods to entrepreneurship education. Their vision encompasses pioneering programs that pledge to reshape student learning experiences, unlock uncharted avenues for recruitment, and attract vital funding to sustain and expand these groundbreaking initiatives. Yet, as they set forth on this transformative voyage, they encounter a familiar response – resistance from within the academic community (Gratz & Looney, 2020).

    Among the most disheartening challenges faced by these individuals is the unease that their accomplishments can elicit among their peers (Cejas et al., 2021). The apprehension of being overshadowed or, worse yet, rendered obsolete by these trailblazing endeavors can breed a tangible resistance to change. This dynamic generates subtle yet potent currents of skepticism, which, in turn, hinder the advancement that innovation so ardently seeks to usher in. Amidst these trials, the narrative isn’t one of despair; it’s a story of fortitude, valor, and an unwavering pursuit of progress. The very existence of these challenges underscores the remarkable potential inherent in these ideas. It serves as a testament to the influence these faculty members possess – the ability to reshape educational norms, inspire students through fresh lenses, and infuse entire departments with renewed vigor (Tran & Jenkins, 2023).

    Through these challenges, these adept faculty members find solace in the knowledge that they stand at the forefront of transformation. They are the torchbearers of change, unearthing novel pathways and forging connections previously unexplored. Their journey is far from solitary; it is a chapter in the timeless narrative where pioneers disrupt the status quo, paving the way for progress. The struggles these visionaries encounter are woven into a larger tapestry that encompasses stories of triumph (McDonnell-Naughton & Păunescu, 2022). Their tenacity and audacity to envision and advocate are the driving forces behind transformative change. The resistance they confront may momentarily impede their momentum, but it cannot extinguish their drive. For every setback, they uncover a fresh pivot, a new approach to engage with their peers, and an invigorated determination to chase their aspirations.

    These challenges, though formidable, hold a remarkable silver lining – they signify the potential for seismic shifts. The discomfort arises from the recognition that these innovative ideas are poised to revolutionize the very essence of education (Cejas et al., 2020). In a landscape where adhering to the familiar often feels secure, these challenges remind us that change is both inevitable and imminent. So, to those who persevere in the face of resistance, understand that your journey is a beacon of hope. Each obstacle is an opportunity to nurture resilience, to cultivate a deeper comprehension of the power your ideas possess. The path you tread, though strewn with hurdles, is one that harbors the potential to transform lives, redefine education, and inspire generations to come. Hence, its plausible that our willingness to embrace uncertainty and champion innovation is nothing short of revolutionary. You are the vanguards of change, the architects of a brighter future for education. With every step forward, you carve out new dimensions of possibility – a realm where progress eclipses resistance, and innovation conquers uncertainty (Kim & Maloney, 2020).

    Navigating Backlash in the Pursuit of Innovation: Overcoming Insecurity in Academia

    The paradox of academia is its setting dedicated to the revering of intellect and knowledge and yet, a curious paradox often emerges. While universities are intended to be breeding grounds for innovation and growth, the very nature of change can sometimes evoke a counterintuitive response – resistance. This resistance can rear its head in the form of backlash, a curious phenomenon that innovative faculty often find themselves grappling with. Delve into the dynamic and it becomes clear that backlash against innovative professors is, in essence, a manifestation of insecurity. These educators, who exhibit a go-getter attitude, a galvanizing spirit, and a talent for generating fresh ideas, inadvertently shake the foundations of comfort for their peers. Their innovation-driven initiatives challenge the status quo and redefine the norm (Contreras, 2016). Yet, in doing so, they unintentionally create a ripple effect of unease among those who are more entrenched in the conventional.

    The reasons for this backlash are varied, often stemming from the very qualities that make these innovative professors exceptional. Their trailblazing spirit – which drives them to explore uncharted territories and pioneer new methodologies – can inadvertently shine a light on areas where others might feel inadequate or unprepared. This can evoke feelings of insecurity, triggering a defensive response that manifests as skepticism or resistance (Férnandez et al., 2022). Moreover, the reliable and consistent success of these innovative professors can serve as a stark contrast to less successful endeavors within the academic community. Their achievements may inadvertently underscore shortcomings in others’ projects, a realization that can breed resentment. This resentment, when coupled with the fear of being overshadowed, gives rise to a complex dynamic of rivalry rather than collaboration (Olea, 2022).

    In this milieu, it’s important to recognize that the backlash isn’t necessarily a deliberate attempt to suppress innovation. Instead, it’s a reflection of human nature – the innate discomfort that arises when one’s sense of security is disrupted. Those who feel threatened by the talents and successes of innovative professors may grapple with their own internal struggles. They might question whether they’re doing enough, whether their contributions hold value, or whether their methods are still relevant. However, it’s essential to approach this phenomenon with empathy and understanding. The insecurity that drives backlash isn’t an indictment of character; it’s a universal human response to change. Innovative professors, armed with their bold ideas and forward-thinking approaches, have a unique opportunity to bridge this gap (Prevzner et al., 2021). Through fostering open dialogues and demonstrating the value of collaboration, they can assuage fears and reframe the narrative.

    Innovative professors possess a remarkable capacity to galvanize and inspire. Their achievements reflect not only their personal dedication but also the potential to ignite progress across entire departments and institutions. Instead of viewing backlash as a deterrent, these educators can leverage it as a signpost that they are charting a course toward transformation. In the grand tapestry of academia, the quest for innovation is an intricate dance. It’s a dance between groundbreaking ideas and traditional mindsets, between progress and resistance. While the tango may at times be fraught with complexities, it’s the dancers who approach it with grace, empathy, and determination who leave the most lasting impact (Bouwma-Gearhart et al., 2021). Just as innovative professors push boundaries in their fields, they can also bridge the chasm of insecurity, turning backlash into an opportunity for unity and growth.

    Navigating Backlash with Strategic Finesse: Forging Unity in Pursuit of a Greater Mission

    This section will expound upon a comprehensive set of ten strategic principles created by the authors, derived from analogies in war strategy, that innovative professors can adeptly employ to navigate the challenges of backlash, fostering unity, inspiring collaboration, and collectively advancing toward transformative academic progress.

    1. Lead with Empathy:

    The initial step entails recognizing that backlash frequently originates from underlying fears and insecurities. Employing empathy as a foundation, innovative professors are poised to establish environments conducive to open dialogue, wherein concerns can be openly addressed and a spectrum of perspectives can be shared. Consequently, this approach engenders an ecosystem marked by comprehension and collaboration.

    2. Align with a Larger Vision:
    In the strategic alignment of initiatives, innovative faculty should envelop their proposals within the comprehensive framework of the university’s overarching aspirations. In doing so, they underscore the integral role their innovative undertakings play in furthering the institution’s broader mission. This strategic linkage establishes a discernible nexus between personal accomplishments and the collective advancement of the university, thus reinforcing the symbiotic relationship therein.

    3. Cultivate Allies:
    Strategically forging connections within the academic community is pivotal. Engaging with likeminded colleagues who share an enthusiasm for transformative thought not only serves to enhance personal resolve but also constructs a unified front, consolidating a formidable consortium of advocates for progressive ideas. The collaborative synergy thus cultivated carries persuasive potency in advocating for the adoption of transformative concepts.

    4. Strategize Like a General:
    Imbuing their approach with strategic sensibilities akin to those employed by military tacticians, innovative educators are well-positioned to anticipate and preempt challenges. Through meticulous self-evaluation, gauging inherent strengths, and identifying vulnerabilities, they can adroitly construct tactical maneuvers that proactively address potential impediments. Such strategic acumen enables adept navigation amidst anticipated obstacles.

    5. Inspire Through Action:
    A demonstrative approach finds its merit in inspirational action. Innovative faculty exemplify the potential repercussions of their initiatives through tangible achievements, such as heightened student engagement or elevated pedagogical experiences. By anchoring their discourse in these palpable successes, they set forth a compelling paradigm that encourages emulation.

    6. Focus on Collaborative Success:
    Transcending the domain of individual accomplishment, emphasis on collaborative feats catalyzes an environment of inclusiveness. The spotlight is cast on the capacity of innovations to engender interdisciplinary collaboration and confer communal benefits. The articulation of such interwoven successes elicits a collective resonance among stakeholders, fostering a climate conducive to embracing change.

    7. Create Safe Spaces for Sharing:
    Integral to this strategic trajectory is the establishment of secure avenues for discourse. These channels proffer faculty the latitude to disseminate their concepts sans apprehensions of reprimand or critique. Nurturing such an environment fosters not only the notion of intellectual refuge but also accentuates a culture that venerates multiplicity of perspectives.

    8. Communicate the Bigger Picture:
    Persistent and judicious communication regarding the progression of innovative ventures assumes paramount importance. Regular updates to colleagues highlighting advancements, and detailing the expansive influence of these innovations, serve to amplify the broader contributions to the department or university’s evolutionary trajectory.

    9. Engage in Mentorship:
    Embracing the mantle of mentorship is pivotal, particularly with respect to peers potentially hesitant in their stride towards innovation. Through imparting personal sagacity, navigating challenges, and illuminating insights, innovative faculty aid in alleviating reservations, thereby infusing a renewed impetus to embrace transformative endeavors.

    10. Embrace the Long Game:
    Essential to this discourse is an intrinsic appreciation for the protracted trajectory of change. Innovative faculty ought to inculcate traits of patience and resilience, recognizing that the seeds sown today may require a gestation period prior to fruition. This unwavering belief in the enduring potential of pioneering ideas and perseverance amid setbacks is the crux of sustained progress.

    Considering the long-game of academia, innovative professors wield an extraordinary influence. Their ability to navigate challenges with strategic finesse can shape the trajectory of their institutions, fostering a culture of unity, collaboration, and growth. Through anchoring their endeavors in a larger mission, they transform backlash into a catalyst for a collective journey toward progress. Just as war strategists maneuver troops to victory, these educators can navigate the academic landscape to create a legacy of positive change.


    Bouwma-Gearhart, J., Carter, R., & Mundorff, K. (2021). A Call for Promoting Faculty Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 53(2), 18-24.

    Cejas, M., Liccioni, E., Urrego, A., & Rojas, M. (2020). Human Talent: The Key to Recognition Pedagogy. Revista Orbis, 15(46).

    Cejas, M. M. F., Mendoza, V. D. J., Navarro, C. M., & Morales, C. J. P. (2021). Pedagogical Leadership Within the Framework of Human Talent Management: A Comprehensive Approach from the Perspective of Higher Education in Ecuador. Интеграция образования, 25(1), 8-21.

    Contreras, T. S. (2016). Pedagogical Leadership, Teaching Leadership, and Their Role in School Improvement: A Theoretical Approach. Propósitos y Representaciones, 4(2), 6.

    Fernández, K. A., Shank, J. H., Klein, C., & Lester, J. (2022). Striving 2.0: Faculty Collaboration and Advocacy as Strategies for Overcoming Post-Striving Organizational Priorities. Innovative Higher Education, 47(5), 735-754.

    Gratz, E., & Looney, L. (2020). Faculty Resistance to Change: An Examination of Motivators and Barriers to Teaching Online in Higher Education. International Journal of Online Pedagogy and Course Design (IJOPCD), 10(1), 1-14.

    Kim, J., & Maloney, E. J. (2020). Learning Innovation and the Future of Higher Education. JHU Press.

    McDonnell-Naughton, M., & Păunescu, C. (2022). Facets of Social Innovation in Higher Education. Social Innovation in Higher Education, 9.

    Olea, J. F. L. (2022). Leadership Skills of Managers of Educational Institutions. Espirales Revista Multidisciplinaria de Investigación Científica, 6(41), 64-79.

    Pevzner, M., Petryakov, P., & Shirin, A. (2021). Training Teachers for Leadership in Education. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

    Tran, H., & Jenkins, Z. (2023). Cultivating Humanized and Inclusive Workplaces With Talent-Centered Education Leadership. In Leadership in Turbulent Times: Cultivating Diversity and Inclusion in the P-12 Education Workplace (pp. 149-166). Emerald Publishing Limited.

    About the Authors:

    <div>EMMY® nominated director and accomplished Upright/Electric Bassist Brandon Robertson, M.M. is the Director of Jazz Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University, CEO of Brandon Robertson Music LLC, & Director of Naples Philharmonic Youth Jazz Orchestra. Hailing from Tampa, FL, he graduated from Florida State University in 2009 with a B.A. in Music, focusing on Jazz Studies. A member of The Zach Bartholomew Trio, they released “Out of This Town” in 2012 to praise. Brandon’s exceptional bass skills earned him performances with the Count Basie Orchestra, Carmen Bradford, Laila Biali, and others, both nationally and across 22 European countries. He showcased his talent in renowned jazz festivals including the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Brandon also advocates for Jazz/Music Education, conducting workshops in K-12 schools across multiple states. With an M.M. in Jazz Performance from FSU, he directed ensembles and taught while also being on the faculty at Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College School of Music. Currently, he holds the positions of directing Jazz Studies and the Basketball Band at Florida Gulf Coast University, and he gained an EMMY® nomination for his contributions to educational programs featuring FGCU Jazz Ensemble. Moreover, his debut album “Bass’d on A True Story,” released through Canadian label Slammin Media/Believe Distributions, reached a notable #16 on the iTunes Top 200 Jazz Releases chart.</div><div>

    José Valentino Ruiz-Resto, PhD, DMin, is a versatile artist-missionary excelling as a flutist, saxophonist, and bassist. With a thriving international career, he has staged over 1400 concerts across six continents, orchestrated 40+ nonprofit missions, presented 110+ academic keynotes and workshops, and provided consultation to several Fortune 500 companies. José’s creative output spans 140+ albums and 10 documentaries, complemented by three dozen peer-reviewed research articles. Holding multiple roles, including Resident Media Composer at Hayden5, CEO of JV Music Enterprises, and Founding Program Director of UF Music Business & Entrepreneurship, he also directs the Commission for Entrepreneurship and Leadership at the Global Institute for Music Research. José’s contributions have been lauded by prestigious media outlets and garnered numerous accolades, including multiple GRAMMY® Awards and Fast Company’s 2022 Top 10 Most Innovative Company® Award. Further information is available at

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