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.
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.
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.
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.
VP of Engineering
Also known as “The Scrum Master” and “The Bowtie Guy.” Over the course of his years of experience, Michael has merged his passion for people, data, and analytics into a career. Together with his management background, Michael also specializes in Database Design, Web Application Development, and Open Source Integration with over 25 years of experience. Michael is a music lover and enjoys traveling and spending time with his family.
VP 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.
VP of Finance and HR
Jack joined Avant after working with both the University of Oregon as a Fiscal Coordinator, and Moss Adams as an Accountant. Graduating from Southern Oregon University, Jack enjoys spending time exploring the Pacific Northwest. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano, exercising, and spending time with his crazy chocolate lab, Elwood.
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.
Avant MORE Learning Specialist
A former high school French teacher, Amanda most recently served as the World Language and Dual Language Immersion Teacher Support Specialist for Lexington County School District One in South Carolina. In this performance-based district, Amanda supported teachers through curriculum writing, individual coaching cycles, and whole-group professional learning. She served as the Awards Director for the Southern Conference on Language Teaching, an advocate for the Leadership Initiative for Language Learning, and is on the executive board for the South Carolina Foreign Language Teachers’ Association for which she was president and editor of the Crescent blog. At Avant, Amanda works with professionals in the field to support language learning programs and instructional practices with Avant MORE Learning. Amanda enjoys gardening, hiking, traveling to experience new cultures, and always aspires to learn something new in her free time.
Director of STAMP WS Rating &
Brandee joined Avant after eight years as a German and Russian Dual Language Immersion director in Utah and 16 years as a Wyoming high school German teacher and district curriculum facilitator. During this time, she developed curriculum and coached language teachers of all grades, contributed to multiple state standards revisions, served on state and national language association boards and committees, and worked to align proficiency and course expectations. Additionally, as part of the College Board committee, she created and developed the new AP German Language and Culture exam. She was also a Wyoming Department of Education Teacher of the Year finalist and an ACTFL National Teacher of the Year finalist. At Avant she works with diverse languages to create and establish STAMP WS assessments, ensuring inter-rater reliability, as the German Rater Manager, and with the Avant MORE Learning team as a Dual Language Immersion Specialist. Her research interests focus on effective language learning, assessments, and fostering potential in our profession and our language students. After hours, Brandee loves spending time with family and friends, reading, planning and enjoying new adventures, and working in her flower beds.
Dual Language Innovation Coordinator French Speaker
Gregg’s work with the Utah Legislature and Governor’s office led to groundbreaking changes in the way world languages are viewed and funded within the state’s K-12 schools. The K-12 program he designed with his team is being used as a model of innovative world-language education nationally and internationally. Gregg has taught at both the secondary and university levels. He also served as a school district and state education administrator. In addition, he has been a member of K-12 school accreditation teams and has overseen DLI program evaluations. Gregg was named the 2009 National Council of State Supervisors of Foreign Language State Supervisor of the Year, the 2015 ACTFL Leo Benardo Award for Innovation in K-12 Language Education, and he is a recipient of the Palms Académiques from the French Government.
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.
Andres is originally from Colombia, South America. Before joining Avant, he was the World Languages and ESOL Coordinator at Richland County School District One in Columbia, South Carolina. He has a bachelor’s in Modern Languages Teaching and a master’s in Educational Administration. He is passionate about helping teachers and administrators improve practices to better support the students in their schools. When he has free time he enjoys cooking for his friends and family.
Director of International Pathways
Before joining Avant, Bob was Global CEO for a language edtech company and Executive Director for a non-profit education organization. He has a proven track record of expanding education programs and fostering international partnerships. Previously, he served as the Director of World Languages and International Studies Programs with the Chicago Public School system, where he was instrumental in launching the Chinese and Arabic K-12 language programs. He has advanced proficiency in Mandarin and is recognized for his cultural competence and strategic advisory skills. Learn more about Bob in this blog post.
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.
Regional Account Manager
Delandris is passionate about all things connected to language learning. Delandris has worked as a high school French teacher, middle school French immersion teacher, and for the past five years, has served as a district administrator and the district’s first Coordinator of World Languages and Dual Immersion for Rock Hill Schools. He was instrumental in refining the world languages proficiency-based curriculum, establishing proficiency targets for all language programs, developing partnerships with local institutions of higher education and supporting international faculty members Outside of work, Delandris enjoys spending time with his wife and daughters, playing the piano, trying new cuisines, speaking French, and traveling.
Regional Account Manager
Edgar Serrano, AKA Señor Edgar as he is known by his students, is originally from Mexico City, Mexico. He has lived in the US for more than 30 years. Señor Edgar has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration with a minor in International Marketing and a Master of Arts degree in Modern Languages from The University of Mississippi. Since 2010, he has worked with language learners as young as three years old, all the way up to those who are at college level. Edgar has taught Spanish at The University of Mississippi and is a strong advocate for early language learning. He previously served as a Director of International Sales for more than a decade. When he’s not enjoying traveling, Edgar enjoys spending time with his family and his seven perritos. Learn more about Edgar in this blog post.
NICK G., PH.D.
Higher Ed Specialist
Russian, Serbian & Ukrainian Speaker
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.
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.
HR and Customer Success Specialist
Justine is a former student athlete who played basketball at the University of Oregon. She graduated with a degree in Psychology and is passionate about helping others to succeed. Her experience in administration and operations have brought her back to Avant to join the Customer Success and Human Resources teams. She excels in providing excellent customer service and building long lasting relationships with each person she works with. She is a big foodie who enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and Goldendoodle.
Customer Success Specialist
Emilie joined Avant as an Account Associate and has since grown her role to become a Customer Success Specialist. Emilie joined Avant with extensive experience in developing and cultivating long-term relationships with both clients and business partners alike. She is driven by customer success and takes pride in her attention to detail and level of service.
Outside of work, Emilie enjoys spending time with family and friends, a good book, travel (any opportunity to practice her Spanish), and most any outdoor activity. Emilie is an avid animal lover: she shares her home with her fiancé, two dogs, two cats, and seven fishes.
Customer Success Specialist
Dan comes to us after many years working in the travel industry. He worked extensively in the loyalty and casino programs, escalation team, and outbound sales departments. In his spare time, he enjoys practicing Spanish and high tech planted aquariums. He also has traveled extensively in South America where he met his wife in Argentina.
KYLE (KARL) W.
Client Support Manager
In the office he goes by Karl so he’s not confused with our VP of Education and Assessment Kyle E. 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.
Client Support Specialist
Laura joins Avant Assessment with a strong background in support management after having worked for many years in the international travel industry. As part of the Avant Support Team, she specializes in colleague training, project efficiency, and new hire development. With a background in fitness as well as nutrition, she can also be found instructing indoor cycling at her local health club. In her free time Laura enjoys cooking and kayaking as well as volunteering and organizing events within her local LGBTQ community.
Client Support Specialist
Tim Harkins has joined the Avant Client Support team after many years providing remote and on-site technical support in the hospitality industry with an Associate’s degree in Computer Science. He has developed an effective approach to delivering hardware and software resolutions, as well as coordinating efforts between technical teams while creating a high-quality client experience. During Tim’s free time, he enjoys hiking, playing with his dog, and going on bike rides with his two sons.
MICHAEL RAY M.
Client Support Specialist
Spanish, French Speaker
Michael Ray comes to the Avant Client Support team with a decade of public service with the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks under his belt. In addition to receiving training in civics and public policy with the Pat Brown Institute and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Michael Ray is a Humboldt State University alumnus, with a B.A. in English Literature—but, being multilingual, enjoys literature, music, and cinema of many different languages. “Poetry, art, and film have been the gateways through which I’ve explored the world, discovering our interconnected narratives and human experiences. When I’m not coding, taking a call, or supporting a client, I like to spend my time cooking, sewing, and throwing the ball for two rascally Scottish Terriers.
VICTOR S., PH.D.
Director of Assessment and Research
Victor’s professional and educational background in language teaching, linguistics (B.A.), language technology (M.S), and language assessment (Ph.D.) naturally drew him towards Avant. At home, English, Portuguese, and Russian are the house languages. He is also an award-winning children’s book author whose books have been translated into over 20 languages, including several Less Commonly Tested Languages (LCTL) such as Hawaiian, Yup’ik, and Irish.
Before diving into the world of AI and machine learning Erica earned her BA in Linguistics at University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as an EFL Teacher in Moscow and Istanbul. Erica used this background in linguistics to embark on a new journey, earning an MS in Computational Linguistics at the University of Washington. At Avant Erica works with the Assessment and Research team as a Computational Linguist and develops machine learning models. In her spare time you can find Erica playing mandolin and petting her two cats.
Remote Proctor Manager
Alexander is a foreign licensed attorney and a Master in US Laws by The California Western School of Law. He coordinated advocacy efforts of Human Rights for the Council of Europe in France and assisted the Embassy of Mexico with trade intelligence in Belgium, among other international and institutional affiliations. Mr. Fox has hosted international law and investment seminars in Singapore, Geneve, Mexico City, and Jakarta. Currently, he coordinates the Proctor team with Avant Proctor Solution, while he enjoys the lifestyle and Mediterranean weather of South California.
Director of Marketing
Amira has always had a passion for and belief in language as a gateway to opening up the world with possibilities. She has a degree in French and lived and worked in Les Mans, France early in her life. Amira enjoyed developing her career in ed tech and more than a decade in senior living which developed her experience in marketing, communications, public relations, project and regional management, and operations. Outside of work, she stays active running, golfing, traveling, enjoying the outdoors and working on her scuba Divemaster certification.
Marketing and Content Coordinator
Ben’s love for the Pacific Northwest brought him to Eugene in 2016 and he’s enjoyed every moment since. After a few stops in the finance industry Ben combines the various skills he’s picked up over the years through a variety of roles including social media, content creation, and management. Ben’s passions outside of work overlap with his day-to-day tasks at the office including video editing, photography, and all things technology related. When not in front of a screen you can find Ben on trails around Oregon or in the kitchen trying something new.
UI/UX Web Designer
Steven joined the Avant team in 2023 with an extensive background in web design and development as well as user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design. Steven has helped many clients build their dream-websites over the past 15 years and has a passion for building accessible, user-friendly, and beautiful websites. Steven loves hiking, painting, creating computer games, and spending time with his wife. He is excited to help shape the Avant website and user interfaces going forward.
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.
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.
Jennifer has a great passion for language learning and international culture. As a student studying abroad in Taipei, she worked as an English teacher and helped create a Chinese-English dictionary. It was during her time in Taiwan that she realized her love of language and culture could, actually, be a career. She has been immersed in the world of language ever since. She brings to Avant decades of experience in language teaching, assessment development, and textbook editing. Outside of work, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, both in the U.S. and Italy, reading, and learning the secrets of international cuisine.
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.
Prior to joining Avant, Ashlyn worked with the company directly through a professional accounting firm and Avant quickly became her favorite client. When the opportunity to join Avant was presented to Ashlyn she made the switch and now works with the accounting team on a wide variety of tasks. Outside of work Ashlyn loves spending time outside kayaking, fishing, and hiking alongside her dog.
Product Communications Manager
Katya joins Avant with a combined 18 years of experience in creative writing and education. Katya is native of Moscow (Russia) and graduated from Moscow State University of Printing Arts. She worked for a decade in the publishing and public relations fields before moving to Texas and studying education at the University of Texas at Austin. After graduation, Katya pursued her career of language teaching and international education. Katya brings her passion for effective communication and great detail and process-oriented organisational skills. Outside her work, she loves travelling with her family, exploring new cultures, and spending time with friends.
Alex joined Avant in 2019 after working at Lunar Logic as a Web Developer. He enjoys programming and the problem solving that comes with it. Outside of work Alex enjoys spending time with his family, learning new web technologies, homebrewing, cooking and playing videogames.
Engineering Technical Lead
Alex was born and raised in Kaneohe Hawaii and lived there till he was 13 years old. Alex discovered his passion for computers and technology starting with his father’s Atari ST computers. At 13 years old he got to build his first PC, a 386 DX 266 and never looked back. In 2009 Alex decided to begin working on an engineering degree from Oregon State University where he was fortunate enough to become a team member on the OSU AIAA ESRA Rocketry team. Alex and his team participated in the first ever Space Port America Cup, where their rocket achieved its goal height of 30k feet. In Alex’s free time he loves to build high performance computers, watch Oregon Ducks women’s basketball, and explore all Eugene has to offer with his wife and 2 Labrador Retrievers.
Mac is a developer who is happiest when he’s up to his elbows in code. With over 20 years of experience in web and Internet technology — from a small local ISP in the late ‘90s to the world’s largest security software company — Mac brings a variety of perspectives to his role. Away from the office, he is a dedicated family man who enjoys tabletop games, Oregon’s beautiful wild places, and plinking away on his ukulele.
IT Security & Compliance Manager
Spanish, French, Portuguese & Mandarin Speaker
With a wide ranging background in IT working at non-profits, breweries, medical facilities, law offices, and schools, Michael brings nearly a decade of IT experience to his role as IT Admin at Avant. Michael is a jack of all trades when it comes to hardware, software, and everything in between. Outside of work Michael and his wife enjoy moonlighting as adventure elopement photographers as well as traveling and learning new languages. He’s even been stung by a murder hornet… and lived to tell the tale.
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 five months. He has also been CEO of Lexia Learning Systems and Soliloquy Learning in reading, it’s learning US in technology platforms, and Formativity in teacher training. He is currently CEO of The Family Learning Company. 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.