ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. – (March 4, 2024) – Being aboard a helicopter flight to sea that landed atop the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in San Diego, Calif., was a first-hand experience that left Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) professor Sheryl Bradford wonderstruck.  

“As a scientist, I was in awe of the many talented young men and women who make daily sacrifices at sea to serve in the armed forces,” Bradford said. 

The vessel visit was afforded to Bradford and 21 other academicians who were recently part of the United States Navy’s Distinguished Visitor program. Every year, the Navy invites a selected number of individuals to witness life aboard a Navy aircraft carrier.  

Participants are selected from various academic institutions and corporations across the U.S. The experience is designed to strengthen civilian-military ties and enhance the public’s understanding of military operations across the world.  Also birthed from the experience is the opportunity for ECSU and College of Albemarle (COA) students to participate in the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Program, in which students can earn up to $170,000 with no military duties while in college. That experience comes with a $15,000 sign-on bonus and incentives to complete other related engineering programs.  

Bradford said the entire encounter was astonishing.  

“I am so thankful for this experience and excited about the opportunity to help other students in Northeastern North Carolina,” she said, adding that members of the Navy were also present and engaged on the trip.  

Two cohorts of distinguished visitors were part of the three-day, overnight embarkment on the USS Abraham Lincoln, as well as the fast attack nuclear submarine, the USS Santa Fe. Professors from schools including Harvard University, University of Michigan and University of North Carolina at Charlotte were among those in attendance.  

“These soldiers were tasked daily with taking apart jet engines, operating nuclear reactors, and rigorous training on a million-dollar aircraft,” she said. “The pride and professionalism displayed during my visit was evident. The average age of the 5,000 soldiers on board was only 24 years old.”  

Students who are interested in the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Program can contact Bradford at sbradford@ecsu.edu. 

“I’m excited about what this opportunity holds for all who are and who will be involved,” Bradford said. 


About Elizabeth City State University 
Elizabeth City State University provides students with a high-quality, affordable education. A constituent member of the University of North Carolina System, ECSU develops courageous, resilient, and empowered leaders through excellent student-centered, experiential learning. ECSU offers baccalaureate, professional, and master’s degrees across a wide variety of disciplines. Come to Discover. Leave to Conquer. Visit www.ecsu.edu.