Iris Higbie Wilson Engstrand retired as professor of history at University of San Diego in 2017. She joined the faculty of the San Diego College for Men in 1968, before it and other colleges joined to form the University in 1972. She specialized in the history of California and Spanish exploration during the 1700s. As of 2017 Dr. Engstrand had written about 25 books and 40 papers on those subjects.
She serves on the board of directors of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. She served as co-editor of the Journal of San Diego History, as the president of the Western History Association, and in 2007 was awarded the Order of Isabel the Catholic by the government of Spain for her contributions to the field of Spanish history.
Her academic honors include USD's Distinguished University Professorship, the Davies Award, and Awards of Merit from the San Diego and California Historical Societies. She has been awarded fellowships from the Fulbright Commission and Huntington Library and research grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Council for the Humanities.