University of Alberta Dental Hygiene program director accepts award for service to education

Dr. Sharon Compton recognized for her contributions to the educational leadership and scholarship in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

Jessalyn King - 22 June 2020

Dr. Sharon Compton, Professor and Associate Chair (Dental Hygiene) and Director of the Educational Research & Scholarship Unit, was awarded the E. N. Skakun Award for Service to Education.

This award recognizes the achievements of an individual who has made a significant and long-term contribution to the educational leadership and scholarship in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. In his nomination letter, Dr. Paul Major, Chair of the School of Dentistry, wrote, "Without reservation, I consider Sharon to be one of the best educators in Canada and highly-deserving of this award from her peers."

Compton accepted the award virtually June 18th during the digital education awards week celebration on the Faculty’s social media. She points to mentorship as the key factor for her success. "Throughout my education, I have been fortunate to have inspiring mentors in my life," she said. "I must emphasize that these [achievements] were not accomplished in isolation, but rather, they were completed with a collective group of others."

As Director of the Dental Hygiene Program since September 2002, she has done much to increase the standing of the program (and the profession itself) nationally and internationally, including helping to develop a Bachelor of Science (DH) degree completion program in 2000, developing the first Canadian graduate degree in dental hygiene (Master of Science (MSc) Dental Hygiene) in 2014, and changing the diploma to a full degree program with the first graduates just this year.

Major wrote, "Since the program was founded in 1961, it’s been a diploma program. [Changing the educational requirements of dental hygiene at the university from a diploma to a degree program] was no easy task as it had to go through several layers of approval, including the government not to mention the work that would be ahead to phase out the diploma program."

In 2016, Compton became Director of the Educational Research & Scholarship Unit (ERSU). The ERSU’s mission is to support the scholarship of teaching and learning within the field of Dentistry and beyond. Compton said, "I am struck with how Dr. Skakun’s commitment to advancing educational scholarship underpins much of my philosophy about the pursuit of scholarship in teaching and learning and is the fundamental aim of the ERSU."

As an instructor, Compton has been teaching online courses for over a decade. Major wrote, "Online learning is a very different way of educating. This method of teaching can be challenging to make connections with students online. But Sharon executes purposeful, consistent and frequent online interactions, providing pertinent feedback as students progress through the course."

Her students feel her influence, as demonstrated in this statement from Dr. Ava Chow: "She was the Director of the Dental Hygiene Program when I was a student, my supervisor as a summer student, and more recently, a colleague and mentor. What she has taught me stretches far beyond the classroom. Though it may not have been her intent, she is a role model for myself and many others, and a compassionate, dedicated and accomplished leader."

Compton has won many awards before this, including the W.W. Wood Award for Excellence in Dental Education in 2013 from the Association of Canadian Faculties of Dentistry, the Distinguished Service Award in 2015 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 from the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association.

"In closing, thank you to all who nominated and support me," Compton said. "Thank you to all who work with me in the pursuit of scholarship in teaching and learning. In my acceptance of this award, I pledge to continue to strive for new and better approaches in education as Dr. Skakun envisioned and achieved."

She received many letters of support for her nomination. See a few highlights below.

Dr. Compton has been a fully engaged, supportive and responsive education leader within the education portfolio that I oversee. She is always open to change, looks for ways to be innovative and collaborative, and always comes to the table helpful and prepared. She has been an excellent colleague and team player to the other educational leaders and is the consummate professional.
          – Shirley Schipper, Vice-Dean (Education), Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

I was able to observe first hand in my role as the Vice Dean Education from 2009-2017, her passion for the dental hygiene students and for the program. Her integrity and her willingness to do the work necessary to improve and build on the program were so easy to see.
          – Fraser Brenneis, Acting Vice-Dean (Faculty Affairs), Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Sharon has two aspects to her personality. She has a vision for education plus the administrative skills to enact that vision. This combination has served her very well. I think that many people cringe when she takes out her notes and proceeds to go over them in detail with follow-up if necessary — but that’s one way to get things done, and it works.
          – Nadine C. Milos, Professor Emerita