The Avant Story

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 Language Studies (CASLS) began developing STAMP (STAndards-based Measurement of Proficiency), and launched it as the world’s first online language proficiency test. In 2001, David and Sheila Bong joined Carl to create what is now Avant Assessment to pursue that vision. Today, Avant delivers STAMP across the country and around the world, and 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 David Bong
David Bong David Bong

David Bong

Co-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, 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 Sheila Bong

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.

Sheila Bong Sheila Bong

Meet Our Team

We are a diverse team with backgrounds in teaching, linguistics, international business, technology, and more. We share a love of language and care deeply about helping our customers succeed.

Brian Agotsch Brian Agotsch Brian Agotsch

Brian Agotsch

Technology Operations Specialist

Brian oversees the back-end server operations of Avant, and ensures the language assessments are up and running at all times. As a systems administrator for over ten years, he revels in complex and challenging infrastructure problems. Brian has been in the educational software arena since the early 2000s.

Randy Barrette Randy Barrette Randy Barrette

Randy Barrette

Kentucky Peer STAMP Coach

Randy is Avant's Peer STAMP Coach for Kentucky. He provides professional development and information to the field as part of Avant's mission to foster collaboration with educators regarding best practices in language assessment that can enhance student proficiency, college readiness and effective articulation.

Mike Biglan Mike Biglan Mike Biglan

Mike Biglan

Lead Technology Consultant

Mike Biglan shapes Avant Assessment's technological direction working to provide an excellent client experience as well as a scalable, fault-tolerant assessment platform. Well-versed in architecting and implementing with a wide array of technologies, Mike uses these skills to continually improve Avant's offerings. Mike has a background in software architecture and development, computer science, bioinformatics, statistics, education, psychology and economics.

Jonathan A. Bower Jonathan A. Bower Jonathan A. Bower

Jonathan 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 Bonnie Buck Bonnie Buck

Bonnie Buck

Sales Manager - Western US

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 accounts.

Trevor Dilley Trevor Dilley Trevor Dilley

Trevor Dilley

Lead Development Consultant

Trevor is a driven software developer with a keen interest in educational technology. Trevor works with Avant to improve and extend their excellent suite of assessment tools. He finds deep, personal satisfaction in creating tools to assist teachers in better educating their students and games which motivate students to learn.

Bill Eilfort Bill Eilfort Bill Eilfort

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.

Kyle Ennis Kyle Ennis Kyle Ennis

Kyle Ennis

VP of Education and Assessment

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.

Maury Ennis Maury Ennis Maury Ennis

Maury Ennis

Senior Rater Manager

Maury has held the position of Grading Coordinator at Avant for the last 10 years. She created Avant’s current Rater Connection system - which assists in training new raters and keeping current raters on top of their grading, thus ensuring Inter-rater Reliability. Maury graduated Cum Laude from Utah State University in Elementary Education with a Spanish minor.

Mark Frisbee Mark Frisbee Mark Frisbee

Mark Frisbee

Marketing Manager

Mark comes to Avant with over 17 years of sales and marketing experience. He oversees Avant’s marketing campaigns, resources, branding efforts and website development. With a B.A. in Sociology from Elon University, the majority of Mark’s career has centered around advertising sales, marketing and operations.

Camatha Groshong Camatha Groshong Camatha Groshong

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.

John Haakanson John Haakanson John Haakanson

John Haakanson

VP of Finance and Operations

As a member of Avant's team since 2004, John has over 30 years of management experience in Administration, Finance, HR, Operations and Contracts. John currently manages Avant’s Client Support, Finance, HR and Contracts departments.

Keith Hamm Keith Hamm Keith Hamm

Keith Hamm

Development Consultant

Keith assists with the maintenance and extension of Avant's software. He has years of experience working in educational institutions and a passion for software development. Keith has degrees in both Computer Science and Anthropology.

Kathy MacArthur Kathy MacArthur Kathy MacArthur

Kathy MacArthur

French Rater Manager

Kathy joined the Avant Team in 2006 as a rater and transitioned to the French Grading Manager the following year. Before Avant, Kathy studied abroad in Paris, was a nanny in Geneva, and completed her studies graduating from Brigham Young University with a B.A. in French.

Rachel Owens Rachel Owens Rachel Owens

Rachel Owens

German Rater Manager

Rachel Owens is the German grading manager. She began studying German in junior high, continued throughout high school, and then minored in German at Brigham Young University. She completed an international internship in Lindau, Germany and a Study Abroad program in Vienna, Austria. She also taught high school German in Taylorsville, Utah, before beginning working with Avant Assessment.

Mike Reynolds Mike Reynolds Mike Reynolds

Mike Reynolds

Sales Representative - Northeast US

Prior to entering college and spending his entire career in Education, Mike lived around the world, living in places like Morocco, Guam and Japan. His passion and desire to experience different cultures and languages make his work with Avant very rewarding. Mike truly enjoys working with World Language educators in the K-16 environment providing world-class proficiency and placement assessments.

Nicole Hines Tilleson Nicole Hines Tilleson Nicole Hines Tilleson

Nicole Hines Tilleson

Sales Manager - Midwest US

Nicole has been part of the Avant team for five years. Before moving into her current position as Sales Account Manager, she spent time behind the scenes building Avant’s assessments. Nicole also teaches as an adjunct professor and earned her Masters of Education and Master of Arts from Georgia State University. Her three favorite words are "Go Pack Go!"

Kyle (Karl) Wienecke Kyle (Karl) Wienecke Kyle (Karl) Wienecke

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.

Tania Wolfe Tania Wolfe Tania Wolfe

Tania Wolfe

Arabic and Hebrew Rater Manager

Tania is the Arabic and Hebrew rater manager. As a native of Nazareth, Israel, Tania grew up trilingual. She moved to the United States in 1993 to attend Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Before joining Avant in 2013, she was an Arabic instructor for government contractors teaching at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Interested in Joining Our Growing Team?

We're working hard to create the best language assessments ever and we're always looking for great people to help us accomplish that vision.

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