Profile of a Chinese major: Matt Coss, class of 2016
One of the distinguishing characteristics of our department is the strength of our language programs. Chinese in particular offers the widest range of courses as well as the deepest and most advanced language training in the region. Students who come to Carolina with no prior experience studying Chinese receive expert instruction from the introductory level through to their final semester of their senior year; likewise, students who arrive with prior knowledge of Chinese, including heritage students who might speak quite fluently but need further instruction in reading and writing, discover an entire track of language instruction that they can enter and progress through. Students learn to read Chinese newspapers and novels, and discuss them with their peers. They watch Chinese-language movies and television shows and analyze the contents. They study Classical Chinese and learn to read, discuss, and explain the writings of Confucius and other ancient scholars.
Matt Coss, who started at UNC in 2012, knew he was interested in languages from the start, and had prior training in both Spanish and Chinese when he arrived in Chapel Hill. He ended up pursuing degrees in both languages, as well as a minor in entrepreneurship, and has proven to be an extremely entrepreneurial student of Chinese indeed. While at Carolina, he won a competitive Phillips Ambassadorship that helped fund his participation in the CET Beijing Intensive Chinese Language Study Abroad Program. He also worked closely with the Chinese faculty to develop his expertise in Chinese oral proficiency, and ended up winning the 2015 U.S.-China “Chinese Bridge” Proficiency Competition, a national speech contest in Chinese, and he additionally scored Superior (ILR 3) on the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview that year. Because of his love for Chinese, Matt opted to teach two C-START (Carolina Students Taking Academic Responsibility through Teaching) classes in the department as well. Upon his graduation, he won a prestigious Chancellor’s Award, the Class of 1938 Joseph F. Patterson, Jr. and Alice M. Patterson International Leadership Award.
Since graduating, Matt has devoted himself to furthering international education through language instruction, and has participated in a startling range of educational programs, particularly those focused on Chinese instruction. Having benefited as a high school student from the STARTALK Program (a federal program funded by the National Security Agency and administered by the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland) in Chinese, Matt has become an expert instructor and consultant for STARTALK programs around the country, lecturing, teaching, and advising here in North Carolina, Maryland, and Oregon. He completed his M.A. in Second Language Acquisition in 2019, and since then has become part of the language faculty at Georgetown University and George Washington University.
In short, Matt is an amazing ambassador for the study of Chinese and a great example of the transformative work our alumni do in the world. Like Daniel Aldrich and Jan Bardsley, profiled in previous Forty for Forty stories, Matt shows that we shouldn’t ask “What will you do with a degree in Asian Studies,” but rather point out that there isn’t much you can’t do with a degree in Asian Studies. Curious, critical, thoughtful, flexible, and entrepreneurial, our majors represent the best of Carolina.