The ISC evolved from the Internet Resource Creation and Management minor offered by the Computer Science Department. The minor was developed to provide liberal arts students with sufficient technical knowledge and skills to find employment in the communications industry, and was extremely popular with a wide variety of students.
It soon became evident that the field was expanding at a rapid pace, both technologically and commercially. As the job market for Web workers refined in terms of skills categories, it became clear that no one individual could learn all aspects of a complex Web development project. Thus the idea was formed to create tracks of curriculum that addressed general job categories, allowing students to better leverage his/her primary degree program and, at the same time, provide a way in which all students could collectively learn those aspects of the technology that are needed to effectively work in a team environment.
In October 1999, the Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB) provided a grant to Western Washington University for $274,000 to be matched by donations from industry. The purpose of the grant was to set up the Internet Studies Center (ISC) in order to expand and refine the Internet minor program and convert it into a certification program. The latter notion arose in order to encourage industry professionals to participate in the operation of the Center.
The certifications would be based on a set of standards that would be developed jointly by the Center faculty and industry representatives. By creating a consortium of industry and educators, the certificates act as a guarantee to industry that graduates have received an education containing the sorts of knowledge, skills, and experiences that make them immediately productive upon hire.