Troia Reyes-Stone ’17 is one of this year’s recipients of the prestigious Marshall Scholarship, per a Dec. 9 BrandeisNOW article. She will pursue a master’s degree at Oxford University, where she plans to research the war on drugs and addiction treatment.

The United Kingdom established the Marshall Scholarship in 1953 to thank the United States for the help provided by the Marshall Plan, an extensive foreign aid package that helped rebuild Europe after World War II. Recipients of the scholarship, who must be U.S. citizens, receive a full ride to study at a U.K. university of their choice, according to the scholarship’s website.

At Oxford, Reyes-Stone will study a course in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation, which “emphasises research methods for evaluating interventions and policies, as well as the advanced study of evidence-based practice and policy in relation to, for example, children and families, poverty and inequality, mental health, refugees, drug use, violence and injury prevention, and offending,” according to the course’s website.

“My goal is really to have a good technical understanding of how to implement evidence-based social intervention,” Reyes-Stone told the Justice on Thursday. “The future of our country is data-driven policy, and I want to understand how to evaluate it.” 

Reyes-Stone said she plans to conduct research on treatment methods for substance use disorders, focusing on how countries prioritize and balance medicalization — the treatment of addiction as a medical condition — and decriminalization.

“You do want to medicalize, but you also want to decriminalize at the same time, so kind of like a mixture of both,” Reyes-Stone said, adding that it is essential for people to have access to treatment for these methods to work.

Reyes-Stone told the Justice she also wants to explore how the United States and United Kingdom differ in their approaches toward treating substance abuse, and how the U.S. can learn from the U.K.’s slightly “more progressive” policies.

“Something that we’re seeing both in the United States and the U.K. — and these are nascent programs so they’re not necessarily fully formed yet — are law enforcement diversion programs,” she said. 

Law enforcement diversion programs direct offenders toward support services instead of cycling them through the criminal justice system. They currently operate sporadically across 20 U.S. states. In the U.K., these programs are part of a co-responding strategy called “Liaison and Diversion.” In the future, Reyes-Stone hopes the two countries can implement “some kind of cross-cultural data sharing” so these programs can continue to expand.

Reyes-Stone previously worked as a legislative fellow for Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), where she learned about American drug policy programs and met people who do work on mass incarceration. She also worked with Cartwright on several bills to expand access to substance abuse treatment.

But for Reyes-Stone, the war on drugs is not just a topic of interest — it’s personal. When she was a child, she told the Justice, she saw the war on drugs’ devastating effects on her extended family in Mexico.

“Growing up with half my family in Mexico, I really got to see the effects of the war on drugs, and one of my family members was kidnapped by criminals in Mexico and held for ransom as part of an extortion racket, which became increasingly more common as the cartel grew in power. He fortunately escaped, but that kind of kickstarted my interest [in drug policy],” she said.

Upon learning she received the scholarship, Reyes-Stone said, “I cried. I 100% cried. It was amazing, it was a dream come true. I honestly never thought I would get it, so it was a huge shock. It was also my first day of work, so it was two extraordinary things happening at the same time.”

Reyes-Stone is the fifth Brandeis graduate selected as a Marshall Scholar. Past Brandeis recipients are feminist social historian Eileen Yeo ’63, Cardozo School of Law Professor Martin Stone ’85, Pulitzer Prize finalist and New York Times opinion writer Elizabeth Bruenig ’13 and Thomas Friedman ’75, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and New York Times columnist.