There is an oddly indefinable freedom in a graduate program that promotes the creative environment. Whether you are researching a project, putting together a presentation, or writing a paper, you have the ability--or maybe even the responsibility--to include a part of yourself in your work.
I just wrote a paper for my Social Theory class where I had to read the Jay-Z memoir, Decoded, and discuss how it relates to our topic of the ghetto. In the paper, I pulled from two very different films to reinforce my point: On the Waterfront & Hustle & Flow. The first is a 1954 classic about a longshoreman who goes against the mob, the other a movie from 2005 about a pimp who dreams of being a rapper. I appreciate both films, but for very different reasons. The character in each has become disenchanted by their surroundings, but cannot fully understand why. They just know, deep down, that something is wrong and change needs to happen. This is were I applied Jay-Z's accounts of his life as a drug dealer, focusing on his interpretations of the mind of a hustler and the environment he inhabits.
It felt odd to put these ideas together. (Heck, it felt odd just to write out the above paragraph.) But it was a unique experience. Like attending classes at the Art Institute--being ensconced in the art & culture of Chicago--it presents a new set of challenges that require a new way of thinking.