Northwestern University student William Gitta Lugoloobi has been named a 2023 Rhodes Scholar.
A senior from Uganda, Gitta Lugoloobi attends Northwestern University in Qatar where he studies the intersection of social media and technology.
He is the first Rhodes Scholar from Northwestern Qatar and the second Northwestern student to be awarded the Rhodes Scholarship this year, joining senior Irena Petryk.
The Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest and perhaps best-known award for international study, provide all expenses for multiple years of study at the University of Oxford in England. Scholars are chosen not only for exceptional academic achievement but also a demonstrated ambition for social impact.
“Being named a Rhodes Scholar is an incredible accomplishment and an exceptional academic achievement for emerging scholars around the world,” said Marwan M. Kraidy, dean and CEO of Northwestern Qatar. “We at Northwestern Qatar are extremely proud of William for this accomplishment. Being named an East Africa Rhodes Scholar comes as a recognition of his intellectual and leadership distinction. This major award also reflects the outstanding interdisciplinary and global education that we at Northwestern Qatar offer to our students.”
As part of the Rhodes Scholarship for East Africa program, Gitta Lugoloobi was selected from among young leaders in Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda to represent the region among the global cohort of Rhodes Scholars gathered in Oxford.
Gitta Lugoloobi, the first Northwestern Rhodes Scholar from outside the U.S., plans to investigate the use of bots on social media as a form of computational propaganda in Uganda and how they have been used to influence the country’s public opinion and politics in the lead-up to its 2026 presidential election.
“Uganda’s use of bots during electoral seasons is an issue that has been increasingly recognized by scholars and social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook,” he said. “My research not only looks at patterns in bot behavior and detects their political intent but also examines how digital inequality has made the internet in Uganda fertile ground for automated misinformation campaigns and attacks.”
With his selection, Northwestern has two Rhodes Scholars for only the second time in University history. The first was when Mallory Dwinal and Anya Yermakova were selected for the Rhodes Scholarship class of 2009.
“Irena and William have a shared dedication to Africa’s future, which continues Northwestern’s historic commitment to Africa through our Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies — the largest Africana collection in the world, and our renowned Program in African Studies — the oldest in the United States,” said Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, director of Northwestern’s Office of Fellowships. “These two remarkable global citizens from different nations, campuses and disciplines underscore Northwestern’s reputation as a global university in the diversity of its student body and the scope of its intellectual impact.”
Gitta Lugoloobi’s interest in the intersection of social media and technology grew after taking a statistics course in his second year at Northwestern Qatar where he learned to use machine learning to build algorithmic models to track misinformation online. In the years since, he has taken this interest out of the classroom and has co-founded and led the school’s Data Science Club and worked as a software engineer intern at the Qatar Computing Research Institute, where he built machine learning models to identify disasters through social media images.
“As a journalist with a software engineer’s toolkit, most of the work I do in fields of media and technology is geared toward making the world a better place, a value supported by the Rhodes Scholarship,” Gitta Lugoloobi said. “From designing news websites to using language models to identify and fight misinformation online, I hope that my work leaves an impact on the lives of people around the world and that I am able to contribute to further scholarship and leadership in whatever roles come my way in the future.”
Northwestern students interested in pursuing scholarship and fellowship opportunities can contact the Office of Fellowships.