U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad is scheduled to make a rare visit to Tibet this week to raise concerns about Chinese restrictions on Buddhist practices and to advocate for the preservation of Tibetan culture. If he wanted, he could seek knowledge and advice from a surprising source: Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who wrote her college thesis on Tibet, but has been strangely quiet about the issue while in Congress.

Gillibrand is proficient in Mandarin and interviewed the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, as part of her 1988 senior thesis at Dartmouth College on the history of Tibetan resistance to Chinese occupation. The New York senator was an Asian Studies major at Dartmouth and studied abroad in China and Taiwan.

A young Gillibrand thought that compromise rather than full independence could be the answer to the friction, an idea suggested by the Dalai Lama.