Cynthia Wilbanks, a senior advisor with the Peterson Rudgers Group, is an expert in building relationships that expand spheres of influence for organizations and individuals. With more than 40 years of engagement in public service, Wilbanks has staffed members of Congress, managed a public policy nonprofit, and served as the University of Michigan’s vice president for government relations for 22 years. The breadth of her experience extends to university relations as well. She joined the University of Michigan as associate vice president for university relations in 1995 and later served in interim roles as vice president of communications in 2007 and vice president of development for the 2002–03 academic year. Wilbanks was the university’s longest-serving executive officer when she retired in 2020.
During her time at U-M, Wilbanks leveraged her relationships with legislators across the state to revitalize and renovate campus buildings, including securing substantial investment in the School of Dentistry. She was integral to the university’s efforts on behalf of affirmative action and to gaining permission for embryonic stem cell research. She led the institution’s involvement in the creation of the University Research Corridor, a consortium of Michigan’s three research universities, and served as special advisor to the university president on the development and growth of the corridor, as well as on other economic development activities. Her commitment to creating bridges heightened the visibility of the university and its president.
Prior to joining the University of Michigan, Wilbanks served as a staff assistant for US Representative Marvin Esch from 1973 to 1976, and as a county field representative and then district director for US Representative Carl D. Purcell, from 1977 to 1992. From 1993 to 1995, she was president of Michigan’s Children, a nonprofit organization focused on creating effective public policy for children and families. In 1994, Wilbanks was a candidate from Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, Wilbanks holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a secondary teaching certificate. An active member of the community, she has served in leadership roles with nonprofit organizations throughout her career, including her current role on the steering committee for the Center for Michigan, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. She has been recognized with multiple honors and awards, including being named among the 100 Most Influential Women in Metro Detroit by Crain’s Detroit Business in 2002 and Woman of the Year by Washtenaw United Way in 2017.