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Former community college graduate becomes NOVA professor

David Porter

As a community college graduate, History professor at NOVA’s Loudoun Camps David Porter understands the challenges students experience while trying to maintain a work-life balance. Finding the time to attend classes, while simultaneously working a full-time job was the only way he could afford college.

At times, Porter did not have a place to live. He would stay at a friend’s home and sleep on their couch. Regardless of his former circumstances, receiving an education was always important to him. Now as an educator, he constantly reminds his students that “although life may be difficult right now, it will pay off in the future.”

“I recognize where my students are because I experienced similar situations and I have compassion for them,” said Porter. “I paid for community college by making stained glass windows. While attending high school and later transferring to a local community college, for six years I made hundreds of stained windows for celebrities and very affluent individuals. I remember going to the home of rock band Guns N' Roses drummer to install windows. This is how I supported myself, and because of the profit I made from several wealthy individuals, I was able to receive a quality education.”

Originally from Los Angeles, Calif., Porter relocated in 1998 to the Washington D.C. metropolitan area to enroll in the U.S. History doctoral program at George Washington University. While attending graduate school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Porter taught at several elementary, middle and high schools in California. In 2000, his career at NOVA began as an adjunct history professor at NOVA’s Annandale and Loudoun campuses. After a full-time position became available at the Loudoun Campus, in 2004, he decided to give in to the fondness he developed for working at NOVA.

“When I was an adjunct professor at NOVA, I was also teaching part-time at George Washington University, Montgomery College and The Catholic University of America,” he said. “But at NOVA, I discovered how much I really enjoyed working with my colleagues and engaging with students at the Loudoun Campus.”

His unique style of teaching history as he described as “backwards,” – starting with the present day of events to unfold the past, has gained national recognition at several conferences. Porter presented his research on “Teaching History Backwards,” at the Virginia Community College System’s (VCCS) New Horizons conference, to more than 900 attendees including college faculty, staff and administrative leaders from across the state. He also spoke at the Southwestern Historical Association (SWHA) Conference in Las Vegas and presented at the first “2018 Last Lecture Series,” a long-standing program that invites professors from the Loudoun campus to share their brilliant teaching with the community at large-including faculty, students, staff and administrators.

“I’ve always like to compare the art of history as being a detective,” Porter said. “On any detective show, we see how actors try to figure out what happened through a sequence of events. In my classes, I explain this concept to my students, that history is about critical thinking and figuring out why past occurrences happened the way it did. Teaching history backwards is a different idea on how people can make the subject more approachable.”

As the recipient of the 2016-2017 Outstanding Service to the College Award for Teaching at the Loudoun Campus, Porter is a member of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR).

He earned an associate degree in speech and communications from El Camino Community College, a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California (UCLA), a master’s degree in American history from Pepperdine University as well as a doctorate in U.S. History from George Washington University.

Porter lives in Silver Spring, Md. with his wife Audra and their two sons, ages eight and 11.

Media Contact: Kristina Ogburn | 703.503.6338 | kogburn@nvcc.edu


Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.