Briscoe, a South African native, taught water management from 1981-85 in the environmental science and engineering program at what is now known as the Gillings School of Public Health. Currently, he is a professor at Harvard University.
Briscoe said he felt surprised but proud when he won.
“The award is to me, but I consider it an award to a whole group of people who I call thinking practitioners — the people who actually do things on the field,” he said.
During the ‘80s, Briscoe joined Daniel Okun’s program for water research. Okun, the then-chairman of UNC’s environmental science and engineering department who died in 2007, created a curriculum that allowed students to combine the practice of water management with academics, Briscoe said.
“(Okun) built one of the best environmental sciences programs in the world, which is still the case at UNC,” he said. “I was fortunate to come and ... continue his tradition.”
He said he has been passionate about water policy for most of his life, stemming from his experiences in arid countries.
“I learned about how essential it was to build water platforms, major infrastructure that can ensure that people in industries, cities and agriculture are protected from droughts,” he said.
Briscoe has worked in multiple places across the globe, including Bangladesh, Mozambique and Brazil. In 1986, he started to work for the World Bank, where he oversaw water research for several countries.