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Norma Polovitz is a 1974 graduate of Grand Forks Central High School. A native of Grand Forks, she attended West Elementary and Valley Middle Schools. While attending Central High School, Norma was a cheerleader and track athlete. She served as the captain of the track team and earned the teams "Most Valuable Player" and "Hardest Worker" awards. As a senior, she was awarded the Annie Fritzell "Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year" award and the Janna Gulberg "Outstanding Cheerleader" award.

After graduating from Central, Norma attended the University of North Dakota and graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation with an emphasis in Administration of Parks and Recreation. While a student at UND, she earned a varsity letter in women's basketball. Prior to attending graduate school, Norma became the first woman to hike the Continental Divide, a total of 2,700 miles from Mexico to Canada.

In 1982, Norma earned a Master's Degree in Recreation and Leisure with an emphasis in Outdoor Recreation from the University of Utah. Norma was a faculty member at Black Hills State University for five years where she taught tourism classes and conducted research in the Department of Business. In 1989 she earned a Ph.D. in Recreation and Leisure with an emphasis in Tourism and Commercial Recreation at the University of Utah. In 1995, she became the Director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana. She was promoted to the rank of Professor in 2004.

As an active researcher in the field of tourism and outdoor recreation, Norma has authored many articles, book chapters and research reports. In 2004 she was awarded the Outstanding Alumnus Award by the Department of Recreation and Leisure Services at UND. This award is for outstanding contributions to the profession, society, and university by a UND Recreation Alumnus.

Mary Paukert, a former Central teacher and coach, states: "Norma has consistently demonstrated the value of perseverance and hard work, and her many accomplishments, both personally and professionally, have made her a role model for young women. She was raised in a family that valued education and she continues to exemplify that in her day to day life".