Lisle, Illinois ~ Adam and Haley Gantt gained more than an education from Benedictine – they gained each other.
Recently married and now living in Springfield, Ill., the couple continues to put what they learned at Benedictine to good use while focusing on their two passions – children and animals.
After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Biology in 2014, Adam was hired as a zookeeper at Springfield's Henson Robinson Zoo. Haley, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education in 2014, has worked several temporary teaching positions while seeking full-time employment. Before moving to Springfield, she was a physical education teacher and assistant volleyball and girls basketball coach at Monticello High School in Monticello, Ill.
A passion for sports first brought Adam and Haley to BenU. Adam played on the men's golf team, while Haley was a member of the women's volleyball team. Both lived on campus in Neuzil Hall, but it wasn't until after they were introduced by mutual friends that a relationship began to blossom.
"Adam lived on the first floor, and I lived on the third floor," Haley recalled. "We both thought it was a very small world when we found out our hometowns were only 40 minutes away from each other."
Today, the two encourage each other to continue to grow and develop in their careers, sharing both experience and insights when needed.
"Both of our careers deal with teaching and educating – just in different aspects," Haley said. "I deal with public speaking and talking in front of students, which Adam seeks advice on occasionally to engage and interest children at the zoo."
Adam's responsibilities include feeding and caring for primates and reptiles, which compose a significant number of the zoo's more than 300 animals. He also works as an animal trainer and presents information about the animals to visitors.
"Zookeeping is a very hard but rewarding job," Adam said. "I decided to go into this line of work because of my love for animals and conservation. Every day has a different adventure and it's very exciting getting to work with animals who depend on you."
He credits Benedictine's science program and the opportunities he had as a student, such as a 14-month internship with the Cosley Zoo in Wheaton, Ill., for preparing him for his career.
One class in particular, "Marine and Island Ecology" offered through Benedictine and the Shedd Aquarium, provided critical research experience. The class included a week-long trip on a boat assisting researchers as they conducted experiments on endangered rock iguanas and Nassau groupers in the Exumas, an archipelago composed of more than 365 islands in the Bahamas.
"The trip really showed me how I can make a difference and gave me great experience few undergraduates have when they graduate," Adam said. "I believe Benedictine was the perfect fit for me. The science program was key to me succeeding after graduation. It offered a lot of different options and allowed me to really discover my passion."
To complete her degree requirements, Haley finished three preclinical teaching experiences and student taught for a semester at a Woodridge School District 68 elementary school.
"During my student teaching experience, my cooperating teacher taught me everything he knew about teaching," Haley said. "He told me that failures will happen, but to learn from those failures. This experience really taught me what full-time teaching would be like and it prepared me for my future in education.
"Teaching brings a new challenge every day," she added. "I enjoy the students the most no matter what age group. I look forward to the intelligent, interesting and funny stories they tell me every day and being able to watch them grow and improve."
In the future, the Gantts plan to continue growing in their careers and visiting the world before starting a family.
"In less than a year of marriage, we have been lucky enough to travel to Seattle, Belize and Costa Rica," Haley said. "Both of us love traveling and exploring new things, and we are so glad that our paths crossed at Benedictine."
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 9,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. A 2016 PayScale Inc. report ranked BenU one of the top 10 colleges in Illinois for return on investment and in the top 20 percent nationally. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ben.edu.