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
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.
JOHNATHAN A. BOWER
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Head of Technology
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.
Anna is a strategic communications professional working on cultivating her career. She enjoys the challenges of the public relations industry as well as the variety of skills it requries. At her previous position of Client Success Manager, she acted as the liasion between the teams and the clients at Lunar Logic. When she’s not working, Anna can be found exploring the PNW, at the gym, spending time with her pets, or baking something in the kitchen. Anna is a Gryffindor with chaotic neutral tendencies.
I was born and raised in Kaneohe Hawaii and lived there till I was 13 years old. I learned my passion for computers and technology starting with my father’s Atari ST computers. At 13 years old I got to build my first PC, a 386 DX 266 and have never looked back. In 2009 I decided to begin work on an engineering degree from Oregon State University where I was fortunate enough to become a team member on the OSU AIAA ESRA Rocketry team. We participated in the first ever Space Port America Cup and our rocket achieved its goal height of 30k feet. In my free time I love to build high performance computers, watch Oregon Ducks womens basketball, and explore all Eugene has to offer with my 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.
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.
Chief Financial Officer & VP of Operations
Woodmansee joins Avant with deep experience in accounting and machine learning. At his previous position at Moss Adams LLP, he developed machine learning models to automate manual accounting processes and increase firm efficiency. He also acted as a cultural liaison for Chinese businesses working with Unites States businesses and tax law. He studied Mandarin Chinese language and culture and was a Foreign Language & Area Studies Fellow at Brigham Young University. Woodmansee earned his undergraduate degree in accounting and his Master of Accountancy from Brigham Young University.
Jack Turner joins Avant as a Controller after working with both the University of Oregon and Moss Adams as an Accountant. Graduating from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Jack enjoys spending time exploring the Pacific Northwest. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano, and getting out and hiking. When he’s not studying for the CPA exam, Jack can be found writing his screenplay.
Remote Proctor Manager
Alexander P. Fox, LL.M 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.
MICHAEL RAY MENJIVAR
Client Support Specialist
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.
Client Support Specialist
Dan Ebling 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.
James joined Avant in 2020 following his graduation from the University of Oregon with a Computer Science major and Business minor. James is originally from South Korea and speaks Korean fluently. He enjoys coding and solving difficult problems. He’s passionate about machine learning and the ways technology will change the world in the future. His hobbies outside of work include hiking and cooking.
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.
Bryce Cason grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. His love of problem-solving and language learning led him to a Double Major in Philosophy and French at Louisiana State University. Following his graduation, Bryce spent a year teaching English in Le Mans, France before relocating to Eugene, Oregon. Bryce’s passion for language learning and education makes him a great fit for our team! In his spare time, he enjoys reading and playing strategy games like Chess and Go/Baduk.
Robert Eriksen is a computer and information technology enthusiast who has been involved in the Oregon high tech industry for over 40 years. Robert spent over a decade at Intel sustaining and developing firmware and supporting user interface applications. After leaving Intel, Robert went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, and then completed a master’s degree in Geography and GIS. Since then, Robert has continued working in the I.T industry, even starting an LLC creating location-based android apps. When he’s not working, Robert is out hiking or snowshoeing.
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.
Mapuana Maka is from O’ahu, Hawai’i, and came to Oregon to attend University of Oregon. She recently graduated in December 2020 with her BS in Computer Science and with a minor in Math. During my time at the UO, she developed a strong interest in security through the cybersecurity club, and by working as an IT Security Student Analyst at the University. She is interested in all things tech-related, videography, astrology and is open to talk with anyone about any topic!
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. At Avant, Delandris is a Regional Account Manager for the following Southeastern states: AL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC & TN. Outside of work, Delandris enjoys spending time with his wife and daughters, playing the piano, trying new cuisines, speaking French, and traveling.