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New Business-Technology University

Northface is backed by $13 million from equity firm Great Hill Partners, and its faculty includes tech authors Terry Halpin, Tony Morgan, and Joe Celko.
Companies looking for homegrown software developers with business acumen theoretically could find the search simpler. After three years of planning, Northface University has opened its Salt Lake City campus with the goal of producing more-seasoned college graduates.

Backed by $13 million from private-equity firm Great Hill Partners and boasting an initial faculty including well-known tech authors Terry Halpin, Tony Morgan, and Joe Celko, Northface's first class numbers only 60, but the school foresees a much broader impact over the next few years, says VP of internal projects Eve Andersson, a former entrepreneur and one of the school's professors of computer science. Andersson says the curriculum, which teaches students how to work in teams and understand business needs, is designed to create productive workers, not young academics. It also will train students on Microsoft .Net and IBM WebSphere environments.

"It typically takes about one year for a computer-science graduate to function as part of a team in the business world," says Andersson, who co-founded ArsDigita Community System, a maker of open-source tool kits that was bought by Red Hat Inc. "It's our goal for our students to contribute from day one."

Course work consists of 70% projects and 30% lectures, a setup intended to prevent students from getting instruction that's too focused on any particular topic. "We don't teach one subject at a time," she says. "We don't teach databases, and then modeling, and then programming. We teach it all in a spiral."

Andersson says the school has seen interest in Asia for a campus, but the school is concentrating on developing the Utah campus first. International expansion will wait until the school has a student body of at least 1,000 students, which she says should take a couple of years.

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