As an artist-photographer you should have other photographers that you admire. There ought to be people whose work inspires you. There ought to be a few books on your shelf of photography monographs, collections of a specific photographer's work. It's a bit like your favorite band or music.
Over time there have been a few photographers that I've come to admire:
Ralph Eugen Meatyard
Josef Koudelka (his book "Chaos")
...just to name a few.
I might suggest that you begin to spend some time looking at books in our library, or purchasing a few from Joseph Beth, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.com. "The Photo Book" from Phaidon Press (suggested in the syllabus) is a good place to start. It has a huge collection of great photographers throughout history that might give you a preview or an idea about someone you might like to explore further.
I think it's nice to have your heroes for inspiration. They open you up your photographic world to new possibilities. And once you become inspired, you have the opportunity to stand on their shoulders to produce your own personal work.