Jessica Apicella
Senior Manager of Media Planning & Special Events

Jessica manages special events and media buying at Thompson & Bender, overseeing campaigns for a diverse roster of accounts, including: Westchester Magazine (Wine & Food Festival); Yonkers Downtown/Waterfront BID (Yonkers RiverFest and Yonkers International Restaurant Week); Westchester Community College; City of Yonkers; and the Archdiocese of New York. With extensive local, regional and national media contacts, Jessica is a skilled negotiator and knowledgeable media placement specialist, ensuring maximum efficiency and effectiveness for Thompson & Bender clients.

Jessica’s love of travel (she studied in London for six months), and her commitment to giving back, prompted a trip to Kenya in 2009 to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. A Yorktown native, Jessica makes White Plains her home now. Jessica’s favorite guilty pleasure is honey goat cheese, and her special talent is juggling (sort of).


Diana Costello
Senior Account Executive

Diana brings more than 15 years of experience in journalism, public relations and marketing to her role as Senior Account Executive. Trained in journalism and philosophy at New York University, Diana began her career as an award-winning reporter with The Journal News/LoHud.com, where she also spearheaded the development of the organization’s first blogs, videos, social media accounts and other digital efforts. After nearly a decade in journalism, Diana’s transition into public relations and marketing was swift. In her first year, she took home the “Big W – Best of Show Award” from the Advertising Club of Westchester for an integrated client campaign involving press, social media, legislative and grassroots efforts. Most recently, she spent the past five years as a Communications Specialist for Westchester County Government, where she handled everything from speech writing and media relations to program development and brand management on behalf of the County Executive.

On the personal front, Diana enjoys cooking, exercising and attending concerts. A life-long resident of Westchester County, Diana’s greatest passion is spending time – especially outdoors – with her husband and three young boys.


James Guiney
Account Coordinator

James joined the T&B team fulltime in 2018 and brings his high-energy work ethic and adaptive attitude to his Account Coordinator position. Already a veteran in providing event support for signature events like the Westchester Magazine Wine & Food Festival, and the Cross County Shopping Center’s Summerfest, James is excited to grow his professional portfolio at T&B and looks forward to contributing to the success of multiple clients at the agency.

James is a Westchester native and graduate of Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business. With previous experience managing and executing campaigns for global brands like Virgin, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Kantar Millward Brown, he offers a 21st century perspective on developing brand partnerships and engaging diverse communities through targeted social media strategies and creative event activations.

James’ “can-do” leadership and outgoing personality directly correlates to his love for hip-hop and professional sports. He is a diehard fan of the Yankees, Knicks, Giants, NYCFC, and Manchester United, as well as an active influencer and content creator within the local Westchester/NYC rap music scene.


Victoria Hochman
Manager of PR & Strategic Planning

With more than 25 years of experience as a journalist and marketing/communication professional, Victoria brings a wealth of knowledge to her role as Public Relations and Strategic Planning Manager at Thompson & Bender. A Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, she served as Deputy Communications Director and later Communications Director for Westchester County from 1998-2010. Most recently, she was Director of Marketing and Public Relations for NewYork-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital, creating successful branding and social media campaigns.
A former reporter and editor with The Journal News and Newsday, Victoria received the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for spot news on Newsday’s coverage of the TWA 800 crash off Long Island in July 1996.

She lives in White Plains and is married and has two children. An enthusiastic animal lover, Victoria works rescuing homeless animals and has an energetic Collie mix.


Valerie Hovasapian
Vice President

Valerie is responsible for overall account management, strategic planning and budgeting for Thompson & Bender’s diversified client group. A seasoned advertising and marketing pro, Valerie has successfully coordinated more than 150 special events over her career, including: the re-launch of one-name edition of The Journal News; the grand openings of Trump Tower White Plains and the Jacob Burns Film Center; gala fundraising events for White Plains Hospital and New York Medical College; and major media events at Trump Plaza New Rochelle and The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester. In addition, Valerie has directed award-winning advertising campaigns for such clients as the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of New York, St. John’s Riverside Hospital, White Plains Hospital, New York Medical College and Westchester Community College. Valerie also oversees T&B’s media buying strategy.

The precision and focus Valerie brings to T&B extends to her offline pursuits: she is an accomplished markswoman, winning gold medals in skeet shooting across New York and New Jersey. Valerie has also run marathons and half marathons in Australia, Peru, Cambodia, Maui and Big Sur, as well as several closer to home. She lives in Salt Point with her boyfriend Tony, and Karlie and Millie—two exuberant German Shorthaired Pointer rescue dogs.


Amy Lasagna
Creative Director

A designer first and foremost, Amy is experienced in conceptualizing and executing purposeful design solutions across printed and digital media for regional, national, and global brands. She brings to T&B over 15 years of experience gained from working for global activation agencies, internal corporate communications/creative services departments and design studios in the Greater New York City area. Amy specializes in: branding, digital, graphics for retail displays and other large-format installations, marcomm, packaging design and promotions.

Past life: Most recently Amy was Art Director at Mechtronics in Beacon, NY where she executed visual communication strategy and graphics for point-of-sale programs and digitally-integrated in-store displays. Before that she was Senior Designer at Daymon Worldwide in Stamford, CT designing packaging and promotions. Amy is a graduate of the Graphic Design program at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Things that make Amy tick include: stuff that’s well designed, classic rock, open roads, comfort food, inside jokes, ‘me’ time and YouTube videos of cats. She lives in New Fairfield, CT with her fiancé Eric and cat Rambo.


Josefa Paganuzzi
Senior Account Executive

Josefa brings decades of public relations, media relations, crisis communications and marketing to Thompson & Bender.  She most recently served as the Director of Public Relations at Music Choice, the multi-platform video and music service, where she spearheaded all B2B and B2C public relations campaigns for the company.  Prior to that, she spent six years at Clear Channel Radio New York, where she handled publicity for Z100, WLTW, WKTU, Power 105.1, WALK-FM and Q104.3.

Josefa started her career at Rubenstein Associates, Inc. where she worked on campaigns for several NYC and national brands including Weight Watchers International, Sally Hansen Cosmetics, Planet Hollywood and the New York City Marathon.

Born and raised in Eastchester, Josefa currently resides in Crestwood, NY with her husband Chris and son Paul.  A graduate of Iona College, Josefa is a pop culture junkie and loves the holidays!


Debbie Pizzino
Integrated Media Planner & Buyer

Debbie brings over 25 years of media experience to Thompson & Bender as Integrated Media Planner & Buyer. Over the years, her career has evolved and while always rooted in media has included event marketing, consumer research and insights, partnership consulting and most recently she was Associate Director, Shopper Marketing Media for Team Unilever Shopper, a WPP agency. While at TUS/WPP, Debbie oversaw the Unilever shopper marketing account specifically for Walmart and Club retailers and has worked on Effie-winning programs for Unilever at both Target and Walmart. Past clients include Alcon, Castrol, AARP, Erie Insurance, Vitamin Shoppe, and Pepperidge Farm, to name a few. Debbie also worked closely with Sandra Lee, Food Network Host and Chef, as a partnership consultant.

Debbie enjoys traveling, reading, and gardening. But most of all, Debbie enjoys her quality time with her husband and son- whether it’s inside near the fire or outside at the playground.


Stuart Rende
Art Director

A hybrid Art Director/Designer — eye for excellent typography coupled with a precision production allows Stuart to concept and execute all media from high-end print through experiential events, national ad campaigns, web content and specialty packaging. He brings close to 15 years of expertise from three key areas — high-tech later stage corporate start-up, specialty innovative packaging solutions and media/publishing throughout lower Fairfield County.

Most recently, Stuart was a Senior Graphic Designer for Datto, one of the fastest most trusted tech storage start-up corporations in the world. He and helped create DattoCon London and the US programs, kicked off a new Service Provider Magazine and managed the development of the Datto typeface with Monotype. Further back — Innovative Kids, making his mark developing packaging, games and promotional material in the educational children’s market. Stuart is a graduate of Mercy College with a BFA in Digital Art and Design.


Dean Scelfo
Graphic/Multimedia Designer

After years of working with fine art, Dean has applied his skills to the world of Graphic Design and Digital Media. Dean’s soft spot is for thoughtful and simple design and elegant yet simple compositions. He’s most curious about where communication meets psychology but won’t deny getting overly fixated on pixels either.

Dean graduated from The University of Connecticut with a BFA in Graphic Design in 2016. He worked as a full-time videographer for the School of Engineering during his time to develop his film expertise. Since graduation, he has freelanced for various companies. Most recently working with NBC Sports, to design various social media advertisements for the 2018 winter Olympics. Prior to NBC was Jägermeister, putting together collateral for their holiday campaign.

Dean is a meme connoisseur, burrito addict, and spider nemesis, actually, don’t let him anywhere near any bugs; sometimes he talks about his dog Diesel too.


Kerry Tropeano
Marketing & Communications Director

Kerry is a Westchester native, and joins the Thompson & Bender team to help oversee the overall strategy and communications of agency accounts.  She is a seasoned professional with vast experience and knowledge in communications, strategy development, event planning and social media management. Throughout her almost 20-year career, Kerry has supported and maintained the profiles of major brands and companies such as Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, GILT, Major League Baseball and Nickelodeon, to name a few.  She has successfully secured national and international media placements for key brand stories and product launches as well as creating brand elevating event environments for media, influencers and customers. Kerry has built a foundation of success working with highly-recognized celebrities, athletes and brands across a fast-pace and unpredictable media landscape,  while developing media strategies and promotions that deliver ROI.

Kerry has a passion for travel, great food and cooking as well as discovering new vintages of Willamette Pinot’s.  However, she enjoys spending most of her time at her home in Ossining with her husband and two children.


Courtney Walker
Senior Account Executive

Courtney is thrilled to bring her unique background in media relations and special events to Thompson & Bender.  Courtney began her career in the NBC Page Program, following in the footsteps of Page Program alums such as Regis Philbin, Ted Koppel, Lara Spencer and Captain Kangeroo. She spent the next seven years with NBC Universal Corporate Communications and Events, overseeing philanthropic programs for the executive leadership team and CEO, including the launch of Autism Speaks in 2004.  In addition to cross company communications, Courtney played key roles in major event strategy and execution including NBC’s merger with Universal and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Following NBC, Courtney spent the next five years at Ketchum, where she developed and activated programs that incorporated social, digital and traditional media elements for clients including IKEA, FedEx and Kodak. Courtney has specific experience working on integrated agency programs with a focus on project management.

Most recently, Courtney was the director of marketing and communications at the Food Bank for Westchester, working to raise awareness of hunger in the county.

Courtney lives in Pleasantville with her husband Brian and two sons Nathan and Samuel. She is an avid runner (completed the 2009 NYC Marathon), musician (has performed at the legendary Duplex Cabaret) and TV news junkie. She is a graduate of Miami (Ohio) University and is a native of Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!).

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Karina Yucel
Paid Social Media Planner & Strategist

After graduating with a BA in PR from Penn State, Karina received her Masters in Sports Promotion and Media from Sacred Heart. When she landed a job at a boutique talent agency, Karina never expected social media to take over her life completely. With experience in branding, content creation, lead generation and marketing, Karina has taken brands from a few followers to landing national media spots. Her specialties include organic content creation and lead generation through paid advertising, as well as analytic reports that deep dive into the efficiency of the social media campaigns.

Always attached to the screen, Karina loves to spend time on her couch with her cat either on Instagram, or binge watching Netflix.