What does it mean, today, to extend university knowledge to the general public, to empower citizens and communities through higher education? Academics face daunting public skepticism about the overweening power of the educated professional. Conventional ideas of academic professionalism are rooted in a more trusting era in which a “social trustee” model achieved prominence in medicine, law, governance, and education. This way of being a professional embodies a commitment to public service, and it is not intended to disempower, yet it has unintentionally marginalized by furthering epistemic, legal, and normative distinctions between professional and lay citizen knowledge and capability. These distinctions are built into training, institutional practice, and professional self-understandings, all of which can foster social distance and lay skepticism. However, a different, “democratic professionalism,” model is emerging in a number of fields to forge more horizontal linkages with lay people. Such linkages have historical precedent and were evident in nineteenth-century lyceum practices that illustrate the ways that knowledge can be co-produced rather than steered by academic institutions. To be a citizen-centric institution, the university must encourage the education of democratic professionals in a range of fields and use in-reach, action research, and other collaborative methods to involve lay citizens more substantively in knowledge production.

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