About Avant

Avant's Genesis

Dr. Carl Falsgraf envisioned an online, standards-based assessment of language proficiency to shift language education from a grammar-based, rote-learning approach to a focus on developing real-world proficiency. Carl and his team at the University of Oregon’s Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) began developing STAMP (STAndards-based Measurement of Proficiency) as the world’s first online language proficiency test. In 2001, David and Sheila Bong joined Carl to pursue that vision and created what is now Avant Assessment. Today, Avant delivers STAMP across the country and around the world. Avant builds and delivers ever more effective assessments of real-world proficiency, including Spanish for Heritage Learners and less commonly taught languages, such as Somali and Yup’ik. Avant’s mission is as it has always been: to improve the teaching and learning of language in the US and around the world through effective assessment.

Meet Our Founders

David Bong

FOUNDER & CEO

David is the CEO of Avant Assessment. He co-founded Avant in 2001 with his wife, Sheila, and Dr. Carl Falsgraf, formerly the Director of the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon.

Earlier David was co-founder of Step.com, a Silicon Valley-based web service providing information on listed US companies to Japanese investors; Managing Director of Kroll Associates Japan, a leading international corporate investigative and security consulting firm; and the US Sales Manager for Takara Sake USA in Berkeley, CA. His experience working with Japan gave him a deep appreciation for the importance of language. As an investigator, David saw firsthand how both Japanese and western firms were victims of frauds or extortions when their expat managers did not understand the language or the culture of their host country. As a businessman he saw many opportunities lost because of the same lack of language or cultural understanding. That experience inspired him to co-found Avant.

David speaks Japanese and is happy to be living in Eugene, Oregon with Sheila and their two sons. On the side he trains for, and occasionally runs marathons. He has a BA in the College of Social Studies and Japanese History from Wesleyan University, and long, long ago was a New England college wrestling champion.

Sheila Bong, Co-founder and Vice-President of Sales at Avant Assessment

Sheila Bong

CO-FOUNDER & VP OF SALES

Languages and cultures have profoundly influenced Sheila’s life. She gained a deep appreciation for native language preservation from family elders on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana where she grew up. Studying French, Italian and Japanese further opened up her world. She was fortunate to have had study abroad stints in Japan and Italy. She spent ten years of her professional career living and working in Tokyo and Hong Kong, using her language and cultural competency skills in very meaningful ways.

In 2001, Sheila co-founded Avant Assessment in partnership with David Bong and Dr. Carl Falsgraf of the University of Oregon’s Center for Applied Second Language Studies. Prior to that, Sheila was the Managing Director, Japan for The Economist Group and Director of Business Development at Sumitomo Corporation of America. She also served as Program Director of the Global Studies Institute at the University of Oregon. Sheila received her B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University. She is an active volunteer and enjoys traveling with her family, hiking, skiing, and golfing.

Jon Bower Board of Trustees Avant Assessment

JOHNATHAN A. BOWER

Board Member

Jon has worked with Avant since 2007 when he arrived as a consultant and stayed as a member of the Board of Trustees. In 2013, he stepped in as CEO for 5 months. He has also been CEO of Lexia Learning Systems and Soliloquy Learning in reading, it’s learning US in technology platforms, Young Broadcasters of America in oral language training, and Formativity in teacher training. At Avant, Jon works with David and the management team on strategy, marketing and sales management. He is a frequent visitor to our Eugene offices where he brings smiles and sharp questions that help us focus on learning.

BONNIE BUCK

Regional Account Manager

Bonnie’s love of people, places and cultures brought her to Avant in early 2013, where her contagious smile and helpful attitude made her a fast favorite with clients and co-workers alike. With over a decade of experience studying and communicating with people from all over the world, as well as collecting and interpreting data, Bonnie excels at providing unparalleled assistance to her clients.

Learn more about Abdulaziz Ebinghannam, International Business Analyst & Development Manager at Avant Assessment.

ABDULAZIZ EBINGHANNAM

International Business Analyst & Development Manager

Coming from an educational family that believes language is an eye opener to the world. Aziz’s passion in language and his experience in data analytics and operations has brought him to Avant to assist in test reporting and operations consulting. He loves traveling to explore and learn about various cultures.

Meet Kyle Ennis, Senior VP of Products and Technology at Avant, & the leader of our computer-adaptive language test dev team.

KYLE ENNIS

Senior VP of Products and Technology

Kyle leads Avant’s efforts in managing the development of assessment products. Working directly with clients, content developers and technology developers to produce Avant’s high quality assessment instruments, Kyle is passionate about pushing the limits of technology to improve learning through measurement. Kyle enjoys playing racketball, biking to work and all over Oregon, kayaking the many lakes and rivers in the west… and all things Oregon.

Meet Maury Ennis, Director of Rater Management at Avant Assessment, leader of our language proficiency test rater team.

MAURY ENNIS

Director of Rater Management

Maury has been Avant’s Director of Rater Management since 2003. She created Avant’s Rater Connection system, which enables the training of new raters and managing rater performance to assure consistent accuracy in rating well over one million items each year. She developed the Avant ADVANCE tool for training teachers in the Proficiency Guidelines and is excited about the value Avant brings to the world of language learning. Being with her family is her favorite thing in the world.

Learn about Bill Eilfort, VP of Content Development at Avant Assessment, and his commitment to world language proficiency.

BILL EILFORT

VP of Content Development

Bill came to Avant in 2011 with more than 21 years of experience in the assessment field. He is responsible for Avant’s content production and thrives on the challenge of working with both designers of assessments and technical experts in psychological measurement to produce high-quality content that meets stakeholders’ measurement needs.

Learn how Bonnie Peterson, Regional Account Manager at Avant, can help you find the language proficiency test for your students.

BONNIE PETERSON

Regional Account Manager

Bonnie is passionate about global education and ensuring all students have the skills and opportunities they need to thrive in a global society. Bonnie has worked as the world languages coordinator and the Director of the Confucius Institute in Davis School District. Professionally, Bonnie has served as the president of SWCOLT and the Utah Foreign Language Association as well as having been on several national, regional, and local task forces and committees. When Bonnie isn’t working, you can find her traveling the world, skiing, golfing, and hiking.

Read about Camatha Groshong, Information Analyst at Avant, our CMS and world language assessment project monitoring leader.

CAMATHA GROSHONG

Information Analyst

Camatha holds the position of Information Analyst and has been part of the Avant team since 2009. Her detail oriented, inquisitive nature has resulted in her expertise of Avant’s content management system and leadership of complex project monitoring. With over 10 years of project management and performance monitoring, Camatha continues to work behind the scenes with data analysis for the Professional Development and Accounting departments.

Discover howKyle (Karl) Wienecke, Client Support Manager at Avant, supports our clients' world language proficiency testing.

KYLE (KARL) WIENECKE

Client Support Manager

In the office he goes by Karl so he’s not confused with our VP of Education and Assessment Kyle Ennis. Karl joined Avant’s team in 2016 bringing over 12 years of experience in customer support and technology with an Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design. He brings vitality and energy to each client engagement with his troubleshooting and attention to detail. When Karl’s not answering the phone in the office he enjoys cooking, camping, classic cars and sports.

Read about Justine Hall, Account Associate at Avant, and how she can help you with your language proficiency testing needs.

JUSTINE HALL

Account Associate

Justine is a University of Oregon graduate who earned her BA in Psychology while being a full-time student-athlete for the women’s basketball team at Oregon. Her positive attitude, detail-oriented nature, and desire to help others make her a great addition to the Avant team. In her free time, she likes to travel, workout, and hang out with friends and family.

Read about Laura Larsen, Client Support Specialist Avant, and how she can help you with your language proficiency testing needs.

LAURA LARSEN

Client Support Specialist

After many years of working in the travel industry, Laura brings with her a strong background in support management and specializes in colleague training and development. When not in the office, Laura can be found painting in her studio, attending Oregon Duck basketball games, and exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their two dogs.

ROGER BURT

Regional Account Manager

Roger is passionate about language education, and helping learners achieve their goals. He is a former high school Spanish teacher in Davis School District (Utah), where he served his district as Lead AP Teacher, First Year Mentor Teacher, Curriculum Team Leader, and Assessment Team Leader. Roger earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Spanish Teaching from Weber State and Southern Oregon University, respectively. He lived in Mexico for 2 years developing a love for the people and culture, and later did his master’s coursework there. Outside of work Roger enjoys spending time with his family, sports, and playing the guitar.

Read how Victor Dias De Oliveira Santos, Ph.D. Dir. of Assessment and Research at Avant, leads our proficiency assessment team.

VICTOR DIAS DE OLIVEIRA SANTOS, PH.D

Director of Assessment and Research

Victor’s professional and educational background in linguistics (B.A.); language technology (M.S); language teaching; and language assessment (Ph.D.) naturally drew him towards Avant. At home, English, Portuguese, and Russian are the house languages. When he is not thinking about language learning and assessment, Victor loves traveling, playing volleyball, reading about entrepreneurship and bilingualism, watching stand-up comedy, and learning about as many new topics as he possibly can.

BETY GEGUNDEZ

Regional Account Manager

Bety has had a long and distinguished career in the language education field, having worked for several language publishers over the years. At Avant, Bety is a Regional Account Manager for the Northeast and Florida and has represented Avant’s products in several states for the past few years. She is a native Spanish speaker who is very passionate about language learning. Whenever she can, Bety enjoys going back to Mexico to visit family and traveling the world with her husband Ruben, her daughter Sofia, and her son Antonio.

Read how Nick Gossett, Higher Ed Specialist at Avant, helps high schools and universities find the right language assessments.

NICK GOSSETT, PH.D

Higher Ed Specialist

Nick is returning to Avant as our Higher Ed Specialist, having previously worked on our content development team. Aside from his content development experience, he has over a decade of experience working in higher ed where he was a professor of Russian and Applied Linguistics, a program director, and an assessment coordinator. Nick will specifically focus on providing solutions for our higher ed partners as he has an in-depth understanding of their needs. When not working, he enjoys spending time in his second home of Moscow and traveling with his wife and daughter throughout Eastern Europe.

Learn about Jan Beck, Senior Item Development Manager Avant, who recruits and trains our target-language consultants

JAN BECK

Senior Item Development Manager

Jan joined Avant in 2010 after working as a teacher and an instructional supervisor in Portland for several years. Holding advanced degrees in applied linguistics and in education, Jan is part of the content production team that develops and produces many of Avant’s products. One of his main responsibilities is the recruiting and training of the highly qualified target-language consultants who assist Avant in data collection, item writing, and QA. When he’s not at his desk, Jan is probably out fishing or traveling with his family in Germany, where he is originally from.

Contact Dawn Samples, Dir. for MORE Professional Learning Avant, to help you with your world language continuing ed. needs.

DAWN SAMPLES

Director for Professional Learning

Dawn joined Avant in 2019 following 15 years as the Coordinator for World Languages and Immersion for Lexington School District One in Lexington, South Carolina, where she created a completely performance-based and proficiency-driven program. In 2017, she was recognized as the Supervisor of the Year for the National Association of District Supervisors. At Avant, Dawn works with professionals in the field supporting language learning programs, instructional practices and assessments as the Director for MORE Professional Learning. Her goal is to provide high quality professional learning opportunities for educators that will increase proficiency for language learners. Outside of work, Dawn enjoys spending time with her family listening to music, speaking French, running, hiking, exploring new adventures and learning about other people, their experiences and cultures.