Kaila Cantens '17

Name: Kaila Cantens

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Hometown: Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

Class Year: 2017

Majors: Philosophy and Environmental Studies


What made you decide to study Philosophy?

Originally, I took my first philosophy class because my father is a philosophy professor at another college, so it was interesting for me to see and talk to my dad about the same things that he does his work on. After taking my first class the philosophy department took me under their wing, and at my first philosophy talk they invited me out to dinner, even paid for my dinner. I got to talk to incredibly intelligent philosophers from the area as well as the speaker that came. So the philosophy department was incredibly welcoming and if it weren’t for that major factor, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with philosophy as much as I did.

What made you decide to major in Environmental Studies? 

When I was a sophomore in high school, I took a global issues course where we talked about fracking, which is hydraulic fracturing. I live in northeastern Pennsylvania, right along the Delaware River, and at the time we were having a lot of issues with trying to put a moratorium on the Delaware so that fracking wouldn’t occur. I got really into the environmental issues aspect of it, and when I got here I basically decided that my lifelong goal was to become a sort of environmental activist/policy-maker person. Our environmental studies program is set up in such a way where I had the option to go into a concentration that I chose, which was politics, so I was able to have an environmental studies major—which was really cool, interdisciplinary—but also guide that into a political realm that I wouldn’t have been able to within other departments. It was really convenient and also super interesting and exactly what I want to do with my life—I want to go into the politics of environment.

What is one course that you are really glad you took?

I’m really glad I took my study abroad opportunity in the spring of my junior year and arranged it so I took courses at American University, which is in Washington, D.C.. I was able to specifically do a sustainable development course load at a different college in Washington D.C., which I would call the hub of political, environmental, and social justice action. D.C. is the headquarters of every major organization on earth, I would argue. So being able to take a sustainable development course for half of my course load meant I was visiting different organization headquarters, and we were able to go to the World Bank, and Greenpeace, and smaller organizations like No Murders DC, and we were able to do all of these different things and see how people work in the real world where I want to do work. It was probably the most beneficial course that I’ve ever taken during my undergraduate career.

Kaila was an intern for United States Senator Robert Casey from Pennsylvania.  With her father (pictured left). With other interns (pictured right).


Let’s talk about Model UN because I know it’s something you are very involved in. When did you join, and how has that experience impacted you?

I joined Model UN my spring semester of my first year. I didn’t join my fall semester of my first year I think mostly because I wasn’t very aware of the Model UN team on campus. Model UN is a bittersweet experience for me. I’ve had lots of really good experiences and lot of really terrible experiences. Because of the way Model UN conferences are set up, a lot of the times the outcome is not fair. The amount of work you put in does not necessarily equate to what you get out of it. So I could be at the top of my game and know everything there is to know about this committee, be the perfect person in my character, and still not see any results at the end of the conference. This is a really terrible moment for anyone that does Model UN because you can feel the absolute failure but at the same time have to realize that the world just isn’t fair. It’s not that you’re a failure, it’s that the world just isn’t fair. But I’ve made one of my best friends on Model UN, the kind of experiences I’ve had made me the public speaker that I am, and made me the more globally aware person that I am. It has shaped me in a real way where I’m a little bit pessimistic, but at the same time really optimistic because I’ve grown so much. Model UN is a bittersweet experience, but I definitely don’t know where I would be without it.

Kaila received Honorable Mention at the Columbia Model UN in New York (CMUNNY).


Kaila as crisis director for the Cuban Revolution Committee at the Five College Model UN Conference (pictured left). University of Pennsylvania Model UN Conference (pictured right).


Aside from Model UN, you are also one of the captains of the hockey team! Do you have a favorite hockey memory?

My favorite hockey moment was not actually in hockey. It was in Claudia Mazur’s room my first year, when we had a terrible team dynamic. The team was all over the place. Claudia cried to me, telling me that I had to stay on the team because I was the only rookie that stuck with the team and she started crying and she was like, “You’re kind of like me, you have to stay on the team, we have to stick through this together. It’s gonna be great.” I thought to myself, this girl is going to cry all the time if I don’t stick to the team, so I have to stick to it. And thank God I did, because it’s just been a crazy, emotional, amazing whirlwind since then. Every Alum Game I always regret either not being there or I’m super ecstatic to see so many old faces back again and so many new faces too. Mount Holyoke College’s ice hockey team gave me the opportunity completely fall in love with the sport. I used to be really into basketball—I don’t really like basketball anymore even though I’ve played it since I was 12 years old—but hockey has become my main sport, where I get really excited whenever someone either plays or there’s a game or something. When I did go to American University during my study abroad I was determined to play on their team and became really good friends with the coaches, who invited me to their hockey wedding. When you love hockey, you become involved in the hockey culture and everyone else who loves hockey loves you. There’s this camaraderie between hockey people. These two coaches that I had got married and their whole super unconventional marriage was on the ice. We had a set of four games—there were four teams and we had a tournament and half of the people in the wedding were playing in the tournament, and the other half were spectators, and it was just an amazing experience.

Why are you a vegan?

I’m a vegan for ethical reasons. Animal right reasons are the first, environmental reasons the second, and health reasons are the third . The reason why I switched from vegetarian to vegan was because I read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and then wrote a review on that book—a reading response for my class last year. After reading this book, after doing all the research, I had this epiphany where I linked me being a good person to the cruelty that happens to animals. That ultimately gave me enough motivation to quit animal products. It’s hard to talk to people about this because essentially what that is is I don’t want animals to be used as commodities I want them to just be on their own. In some cases, I take veganism as far as instead of calling your dog a pet, I would call your dog a companion because a pet is something that you own, whereas a companion is something that you have a relationship with. It gets a little complicated but it’s basically that I want animals to be—maybe not on the exact same level as humans—but I don’t want them to be defined by anything except a relationship that we have with them, not something that we use for our pleasure, advantage, or food.

Boston Veg Fest

Can you talk about the stuff you do for PETA?

I am the campus representative for PETA. Many people don’t like PETA, which is fine, you can have your opinions and I can have my opinions and we don’t have to talk about the organization because that’s not the issue. Essentially I use PETA as a source to do what I want to do and I work with the Animal Welfare Association with Stella Elwood, who’s the president right now. We use programming, trips to different places, free vegan food, and movie screenings in order to bring to light animal rights issues and animal issues in general. Last semester we worked on factory farming and pitbulls. We had a movie about factory farming, in Blanchard we set up tables and gave out free things and told people not to wear fur for Halloween, things like that. We also had a campaign where we posted all over the school these pictures of cute pitbulls. This semester we have three trips planned where we’ll go to all vegan places, sanctuaries where we’ll pet cows and farm animals. I’m not sure if we’ll do this this semester, but they usually take trips down to Springfield where they pet pitbulls at the shelter so that they calm down by the time people come to adopt them, so they have a higher adoption rate. We do a lot of things that have direct impact, but we also do things that are like, “Watch this movie! Think about this thing! Maybe it will change your mind, maybe it won’t! This food tastes really good! You can eat this food too!” We do a lot of stuff.

What are your plans for after graduation?

My number one plan is to go abroad. I am terrified of being stuck at a nine-to-five job at a desk where I have to spend 2-3 years there before I can go off and get a master’s or go to law school. My first option is to go abroad. There is a conversationalist program that the Ministry of Education in Spain is doing where you get to become an English conversationalist with students in Spain and get paid fairly well, have regular working hours, spend time with a different culture and Spanish kids. Being abroad and not having to worry about stress and hopefully during that time I’ll also be able to study for whatever it is I need to study for, maybe look for jobs, do some networking. I plan on coming back and living in Washington, D.C. until I find a job that I like and hopefully be in politics. We’ll see how it goes. Politics right now is in a sway, an unknowable motion where I don’t really know where our political system is going and I don’t know if I want to be on board when that shift changes or not. Everything is up in the air, but I definitely want to go abroad.

What is one thing you would tell your first-year self?

Stop cutting your hair in bangs! Stop doing it! You don’t look good! It doesn’t look good! That’s not a serious one. I would tell my first-year self that I worry too much. You worry too much. Just believe in yourself. Whatever you say goes.  


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